Tenino man mistaken for bank robber at Timberland Bank in Tumwater

Staff writerSeptember 26, 2013 

Employees at the Timberland Bank on Trosper Road in Tumwater treated Thomas Budsberg like a bank robber during a recent visit to the branch - even tripping an alarm that resulted in police drawing guns and handcuffing the 59-year-old man.

"I thought they were going to shoot me," Budsberg said of his ordeal the afternoon of Sept. 16. "I have trouble sleeping at night too."

Budsberg and a companion were released by police after realizing he had not robbed the bank, and was not a bank robbery suspect. The case of mistaken identity left Budsberg shaken. He said he is afraid to return to Tumwater after the incident.

Timberland Bank CEO Michael Sand said he believes employees did nothing wrong during the encounter. Sand said employees at the bank were on alert for Budsberg, because had come into the bank in August, took some brochures, and left.

This was considered "odd" behavior on Budsberg's part, Sand said. Sand said the branch on Trosper Road has been robbed before. "We want to protect our people," he said.

Bank employees subsequently looked through CrimeStoppers photos of recent bank robbery suspects, and believed that Budsberg resembled one of them, Sand said.

So when Budsberg came to the bank on Sept. 16, he was not allowed inside the bank. Instead, an employee kept the door locked so that he remained in the vestibule, according to a police report. After a teller asked for Budsberg's identification and wrote his information down, Budsberg had already left.

According to a Tumwater police report, the teller hit a holdup alarm button and called 911. Sand said the alarm had already been tripped as soon as soon as Budsberg had entered the bank's vestibule.

Budsberg said he and a friend were pulled over in a nearby gas station by several police cars after exiting the bank around 1:30 p.m. Budsberg said he and his friend had guns pointed at them, were handcuffed, and were detained for over an hour.

A police officer who looked at the CrimeStoppers photo at the bank agreed there was "a definite resemblance between Budsberg and the male in the flier," according to the police report. The flied showed a photo of a man who had "robbed several banks in the Tacoma area," the report states.

Budsberg disagreed that he resembled the suspect pictured in the flier.

Lt. Jay Mason of the Tumwater Police Department said that bank alarms should only be tripped if there is a bank robbery or an employee believes a bank robbery is imminent. Sand disagreed with Mason's assessment, and said bank alarm buttons can be pressed in other circumstances.

Mason added that the police who responded to the tripped alarm on Sept. 16 believed there was a bank robbery in progress.

Budberg said he believes the employee who tripped the alarm "was very premature." He added that he has a property loan through Timberland Bank, but that he normally goes to a branch in Olympia to conduct his business. He said he won't be conducting bank business at the Tuwmater branch anymore. And as soon as he pays off his loan "I'm going to drop them," he added.


Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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