Lee Bank robbery suspect held in NY; heroin habit cited


A New York state man who police say robbed a Stockbridge bank on Monday in order to feed his heroin addiction is being held without bail in the Columbia County Jail.

Christopher Blair, 34, of Upper Hollow Road in Hillsdale, was arrested a few hours after the robbery by New York State Police in Hillsdale. State police pulled him over after spotting his truck, which matched the description of the getaway vehicle.

He had a little more than $525 in cash on him when taken into custody, police said.

Blair allegedly walked into Lee Bank on Elm Street about 4 p.m. Monday, just before closing, and handed a teller a note demanding money and saying if he got it "no one would get hurt," according to a Massachusetts State Police report. The hood of his jacket was pulled up to obscure his identity.

All three tellers were counting their tills at the time, police said. The woman Blair approached asked him what the note meant and he told her to give him her money.

Blair grabbed money from the teller's hand before jumping over the counter and snatching money from the hand of another teller who pushed him away and told him to leave, police said. Blair then grabbed some more cash before he jumped back over the counter and fled.

No gun was displayed during the robbery and no one was injured, but Blair pushed one of the tellers during the robbery, the report said.

Blair later told police he was high during the robbery and after leaving Stockbridge, he allegedly bought more heroin and used it.

He was arraigned at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Robert Moore in Livingston Town Court on a fugitive from justice charge. He is currently being held in the Columbia County Jail in Greenport.

"He's still in jail here," Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka told The Eagle on Tuesday. "I don't know if he's going to fight extradition."

If Blair does fight his removal from New York, a governor's warrant would be required to get him to Massachusetts for prosecution. This means the Massachusetts' governor's office must request rendition of the defendant from the governor's office of New York, a process that can take some time.

According to Stockbridge Police Chief Robert M. Eaton Jr., the department will be charging Blair with robbery, assault and battery, and larceny over $250.

While initial reports mentioned a second suspect, Eaton said Blair is now the sole suspect in this case, which remains under investigation.

Lee Bank President David Bruce, who reopened the Stockbridge office on Tuesday afternoon, had high praise for his staff and local law enforcement.

In a brief phone interview Tuesday morning, Bruce said he was "very grateful" none of the four employees working at the time were hurt during the late afternoon heist.

"The branch staff handled themselves in an extraordinary manner," he said. "Thanks also to the police for the way they handled themselves."

Eagle reporters Derek Gentile, Dick Lindsay, Nathan Mayberg and Jenn Smith contributed to this report.

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