Hostage taken in robbery, officer shot, 2 arrested
By Ann. Kirchheimer
Two men were arrested by Norwood police yesterday after a bank robbery that spurred a French Connection-like car chase in which one police officer was shot and two others were injured.
The men, who identified themselves as Michael J. Castello, 44, and Henry Paul Caron, 40, both of Queens, N.Y., were arraigned yesterday at Dedham District Court and charged with armed robbery. The men gave several aliases during arraignment and they were ordered held without bail.
Castello and Caron were being held last night at Norfolk County House of Correction and Jail for a conf nuance on Sept. 17.
The $20,750 stolen from the Norwood branch of the Needham National Bank on Route 1 was recovered by police from a car at the scene.
Before the two men were captured, police said, they stole four cars, handcuffed three bank employees and a customer, shot a police officer and took an elderly woman as hostage in an hour’s time.
Norwood Police Sgt. Valentine Balutis, with 31 years on the force, was released from Norwood Hospital after being treated for wounds from a bullet that grazed his back. Westwood police officer Daniel Collela and Norwood Patrolman Thomas Michienzi were also released after being treated for injuries suffered during the car chase that was marked by several collisions.
Mrs. Anna Thompson, an elderly woman from the Chestnut Hill section of Newton who was taken hostage as she drove past the scene of the chase while enroute to have her Cadillac serviced, was unharmed.
Reached for comment at her home, Mrs. Thompson, who police estimate is in her 70s, said she was “over 39” years old and “in bed resting” after being held for several minutes yesterday by the bandits who jumped in her car, pushed her to the floor while continuing the shootout with the police.
By yesterday afternoon a sign that read ‘Bank closed for the day due to a holdup’ was on the door at the Needham National Bank, but the day had started as a normal morning for bank manager Robert Lynch Jr. of Needham.
Lynch arrived at 8:45 a.m., checked the inside of the bank and then signaled for two women tellers, waiting in the bank’s parking lot to come in. As the women approached the bank entrance a car that was in the back of the parking lot “gunned it” according to Lynch. Two men with guns jumped out and escorted the three into the bank.
One man forced the women to lie down on the yellow carpeted floor and the other forced Lynch into the vault. A customer who came in was also forced to lie on the floor. After Lynch turned over the money, the men handcuffed the four.
“The key to this is that they made one mistake,” said Lynch who said he was still shaken up. “They handcuffed me to a cart that moves so when I knew they had left I could drag the cart out and I got to a phone.”
The bandits left the bank in the handcuffed customer’s green Plymouth Satellite and left leaving behind the stolen yellow Mustang they arrived in. Lynch called the police with the car description and registration.
Sgt. Balutis and patrolman Michienzi, driving in a cruiser, spotted the getaway car and began the chase.
During the chase that involved over 10 Norwood policemen and several from the Westwood force more than 50 rounds of ammunition were fired, two police roadblocks were broken, a man’s car was stolen at gunpoint and two police cars were wrecked during collisions.
At one point the bandits fired point blank at Sgt. Balutis and Michienzi.
“I looked down to see where I was hit. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t hit,” said Michienzi, who is suffering from severe bee stings that he got in the brush chasing after the men.
“I’d say they fired 25 shots or more because they never let up all the way. They never reloaded but just kept on shooting,” said Michienzi.
Police recovered an automatic rifle, a 9 mm handgun and two .38 special revolvers after the chase.
One of the men, police said, was dressed in women’s under garments and a feminine-looking brown and white pants suit.
The chase ended on Upland street near the Norwood Polaroid plant when the fourth car used by the bandits became stuck on railroad tracks while attempting a high-speed turn. Caron was fleeing on foot when captured while Costello was apprehended in the car.
A witness to the chase, Bette Proctor of Prospect street Norwood, described the episode as “very frightening.”
“The gun shots, the racing up and down, sirens, the helicopter hovering over the area — it’s a good thing the children were in school — it’s a Godsend,” said the Norwood mother.
Norwood Police Chief James Curran said that after police realized that the bandits had taken Mrs. Thompson as a hostage they stopped returning the bandits’ fire.