June 17, 2009 began routinely at the Lake City Bank in Silver Lake, Ind. Senior Robby Hamman, who has worked at the branch for the past three summers, spent most of the morning depositing and cashing checks for the bank’s regulars. Shortly before 10 a.m., the day transformed from casual to chaotic when a man, armed with a handgun, entered the bank and approached Hamman’s station.
According to Hamman, the man, now identified as Virgil Justin Smith of Galveston, Ind., entered the first of two doors to the bank undisguised. Immediately after a fellow teller noted she had never seen him before, Hamman said the man pulled a white bandana up over his mouth.
“When he walked through the doors and pulled up the bandana I thought, ‘Uh-oh. Oh crap. We are going to get robbed.’ And I started to get nervous,” Hamman said.
After pointing the gun at him, Hamman said Smith shouted to everyone to stay calm and follow his instructions. According to Hamman, Smith then demanded they give him all of the money in their drawers, adding later that no alarms should be pulled and no “bait” money be given.
“We gave him some of our 100s and 50s, and then he asked us to give him the 20s and 10s,” Hamman said. “He just kept saying, ‘Give me some more, give me some more.’ He put it into a bag and then ran off.”
Hamman and his coworkers were shaken from the robbery but sustained no injuries. No customers were present at the time of the robbery and Silver Lake Police arrived 15 to 20 minutes later. Hamman was questioned by a county detective and gave an official statement. After interviewing the Silver Lake staff, police advised the tellers to contact close relatives before word spread to local news organizations. Hamman made his first call to his mother.
Upon hearing the news of the incident, Sherril Hamman’s motherly instincts were triggered into full effect.
“…My immediate reaction was fear for my child, and anger at the person who did (the robbery),” said Sherril Hamman. “When I found out he had a gun pointed right at him, I think my heart stopped. No mother likes to see her child threatened, it kicks in the ‘protection mode’ in us.”
Smith has since confessed to the robbery and authorities said they have retrieved evidence of his connection in two other bank robberies in Indiana. This incident marks a first for both the Hammans and the people of Silver Lake, Ind. Until this fateful June day, a bank robbery had never affected their lives or this community.
Hamman returned to work the next day and life at the branch returned to normal. Hamman still considers the experience to be “surreal.” When he looks back at it, he still cannot believe it happened at all. When asked what he learned from the experience, Hamman said he now has a better idea of the pressure the recent economic recession has put on people who are struggling to survive
“People will go to desperate measures to fulfill their needs,” Hamman said.