Pennsylvania December 08, 2017
One Of The Most Insane Bank Robberies In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Pennsylvania
It’s probably fair to say that anyone who lived in Pennsylvania – or in the U.S., for that matter – in 2003 remembers the startling images on TV. A man, claiming to have a ticking bomb around his neck, sat in front of a police car, waiting for someone to help before the bomb exploded. Here’s the story of what just might be one of the most insane bank robberies in U.S. history.
Brian Douglas Wells, a 46-year-old pizza deliveryman, unwittingly became a part of one of the most insane bank robberies in U.S. history. On August 28, 2003, he carried a shotgun, shaped like a cane, into a PNC Bank in Erie. He then handed tellers a note, demanding a quarter of a million dollars. They had 15 minutes, the note said, to comply or the bomb would explode.
Attached to Wells' neck was a ticking collar bomb. Wells had, according to authorities, been a part of an elaborate plan to rob the PNC Bank. However, he had been under the assumption that the bomb attached to him was fake, a way to coerce tellers into cooperating with him.
In reality, his original accomplices in the robbery handed him a note after securing the live collar bomb to him. The detailed note instructed him exactly what to do
and what not to do to defuse the bomb. He was, for example, not to contact the police.
Wells escaped the PNC Bank with less than $9,000 and was arrested less than a half an hour later. The pizza deliveryman told police that three men had accosted him, forced the collar bomb on him, and gave him a list of tasks to carry out or the bomb would detonate.
He sat in handcuffs in front of a police car begging police to help him. The bomb squad arrived three minutes after the collar bomb exploded, killing Wells.
After Wells' death, a story emerged. Wells had been at work at a pizza parlor, nearing the end of his shift, when an order came in. He volunteered to deliver the pizza. Some believe he went, knowing that he would meet his accomplices for the impending robbery. Others assert that Wells was an innocent participant, who had walked into a trap when he delivered the pizza to a phony address that August afternoon.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes were arrested for their roles in the robbery. Diehl-Armstrong wanted to raise money to hire a hitman to kill her father, the motive for the robbery. Prosecutors contended the pair had written letters to make it appear as though Wells was an unwitting participant in the robbery even though he was a willing participant. They attached the collar bomb to him to ensure he gave them the money after the robbery. (Wells' family vehemently denies that he was a willing participant.)
Diehl-Armstrong died in prison in April 2017. Barnes testified against Diehl-Armstrong and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
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Pennsylvania sure does have a fascinating history, whether it’s one of the craziest bank robberies in U.S. history or being the death place of
America’s first serial killer.