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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 20th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 37 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 37

Residents from Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria are arrested for a bizarre bank robbery

BY RHYS HEYDEN

Arthur McClay Watkins, 55, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a former president of the Arroyo Grande Rotary Club, a father of two young children, and—as of Nov. 16—an alleged bank robber.

Police say Watkins, wearing a ski mask and brandishing a handgun, robbed the Wells Fargo Bank on East Main Street in Santa Maria on Nov. 16. Watkins, who goes by the nickname “Clay,” allegedly ran off with more than $950 in cash, pointed a gun at a pursuing officer during a foot chase, and was arrested mere minutes later across the street, in the Sears parking lot.

That wasn’t the end of the robbery, however. Santa Maria Police Department Lt. Kim Graham said Watkins dropped the bag of cash during the pursuit and a passerby picked it up, speeding away with the money in his car.

After obtaining the car’s license plate number from an observant citizen, SMPD officers arrested Jose Villa Mendez, 19, of Santa Maria, later that evening. Mendez was charged with grand theft and possession of stolen property, and Graham said officers recovered “nearly the full amount of money” that was stolen.

Watkins, for his part, was charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer. All charges filed against both men are felonies, Graham said, and there is no indication the alleged suspects were working in unison.

“We had a lot of luck with this one,” Graham told the Sun. “There were a lot of rare occurrences—we got the 911 call during the robbery, we had an officer located very close to the robbery, no shots were fired, we apprehended both men quickly, and we recovered almost all of the money.”

Arroyo Grande photographer and community organizer Vivian Krug said she knew Watkins—who served as president of the Arroyo Grande Rotary Club from 2006 to 2007—from various city events and functions. She said she was shocked to hear about the charges.

“I didn’t even believe it at first,” Krug said. “I checked the news several times just to make sure it was him. He was such a mild-mannered, nice, and giving person.”

Krug said Watkins is a dedicated banjo player, a longtime chili cook-off participant, and a family man who frequently posted about the exploits of his young son and daughter on Facebook.

As of press time on Nov. 19, Senior Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard said she was still reviewing both men’s cases, and that formal charges were pending.