Bank Robbery That Went Viral on Social Didn't Happen

Minnesota law enforcement agencies had a failure to communicate
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2023 4:40 PM CDT
Bank Robbery That Went Viral on Social Didn't Happen
Sunshine illuminates the company logo over the entrance to a Wells Fargo bank location last month in downtown Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Did anyone have information about an armed bank robbery to which police in Golden Valley, Minnesota, failed to respond? In a surprising development, a bank robbery that was reported in March this year at a Golden Valley Wells Fargo bank in Hennepin County, Minnesota, didn't actually happen the way it was discussed online, reports the Star-Tribune. Though it was reported on the Nextdoor app by a former city council member and went viral as a crime that police didn't respond to, Golden Valley police Chief Virgil Green reviewed calls to his department for the period and found no evidence of a robber passing a note or any unanswered call, prompting Green to issue a public statement rebutting the report and bemoaning its spread throughout the community.

The Star-Tribune reports that the police chief eventually spoke with the ex-council member, Joanie Clausen, and when he asked why Clausen never told him about the incident directly, she indicated she did not trust him or the city—or Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris, with whom Clausen has clashed politically over racial equity programs. Still, Clausen hadn't made the robbery up so much as fallen into a game of telephone, where the retelling of an event grows more elaborate as it passes from person to person. After a conversation with Clausen, Chief Green went to the Wells Fargo manager, who described a man entering his branch and passing a note to a teller, then leaving. The teller did activate the panic button and Hennepin County (not Golden Valley police) sheriff's deputies came. Ultimately, the bank was briefly closed as the deputies worked the scene and then reopened a short time later.

In an online Hennepin County report, the incident was labeled an "attempted robbery" with the simple description, "MALE SUSP WROTE NOTE WALKED OUT, NO WEAPONS SEEN IMPLIED." Green told the Star-Tribune that if the event had risen "to a level where it was an actual attempted bank robbery, we would have notified the public." Clausen is reportedly still concerned that the event has been obscured, and Green said it did reflect poor communication between city and county departments, since Hennepin County did not bother to inform Golden Valley leadership what happened—and Golden Valley authorities didn't pay attention to Hennepin County deputies' reports. Still, Mayor Harris insists the "bottom line" is that Golden Valley is not some hotbed of unanswered crime but "a safe place." (More bank robbery stories.)

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