HARRISONBURG — Federal agents have charged a Harrisonburg teen accused of robbing a city bank last summer with unlawful flight from prosecution, according to court documents that also link him to a second bank robbery in the city. The federal charge stems from the suspect's escape from a juvenile detention center in December while awaiting trial on the robbery charge.
The FBI charged Rosel Guillen-Mendez, 17, on Jan. 16 with knowingly and intentionally traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to avoid prosecution. The criminal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, was sealed by court order until this morning.
“There is unconfirmed information that RGM may be heading to an undetermined location in Texas to attempt to cross the U.S./Mexican border,” the criminal complaint states. “RGM eluded multiple police chases to include vehicle, K-9 tracks and helicopters.”
Several police sources say they believe Guillen-Mendez successfully made it across the border into Mexico.
Guillen-Mendez, who was 16 at the time of the robbery, is charged as an adult in the July 1 holdup at the BB&T branch at 1900 S. High St.
He is charged with felony robbery, felony use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, felony entering a bank to commit larceny and felony wearing a mask in public.
Police say Guillen-Mendez entered the bank, displayed a handgun and demanded money before fleeing on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.
The criminal complaint sheds new light on what took place inside the bank.
“The subject ordered the bank employees to lay on the ground and to count to 10 before he would ‘blast,’ them," the complaint states.
He was arrested July 3 after SWAT teams raided a mobile home in The National Coach Mobile Home Park about a mile from the bank. Police say he confessed to the robbery.
Police say he confessed to the BB&T robbery.
The complaint also links Guillen-Mendez to the April 5, 2013 robbery of the Bank of America, located at 70 University Blvd., in Harrisonburg.
“During that robbery, a male subject entered the bank and pointed a handgun at employees and patrons,” the complaint states. “The subject ordered employees to give him cash, and told the employees that they had 30 seconds to comply. The subject began to count down from 30 and fled on foot.
Guillen-Mendez has not been charged in that robbery.
On The Lam
Guillen-Mendez escaped from the Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents in Staunton at about 6 p.m. on Dec. 29.
Previously, he had been held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center in Verona but was transferred to the Staunton facility, which specializes in mental health treatment.
It is unclear why he was transferred.
Shortly after his escape, the complaint states, he broke into a business in Staunton.
He then broke into several homes and stole a vehicle in Bridgewater. That vehicle was located a short time later in Lexington, where he stole another car, police say.
The second stolen vehicle was found in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On Jan. 4.
Police say Guillen-Mendez then continued his crime spree.
On Jan. 6, a Gordo, Ala., resident found a male suspect leaving his barn, where it appeared someone had been sleeping, according to WIAT, a CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Ala.
The complaint goes on to say that Guillen-Mendez was shot at while trying to commit a burglary on Jan. 6. It's not clear where that robbery attempt occurred.
Police believe he was involved in a series of break-ins in Gordo, a town about 20 miles outside of Tuscaloosa, near the Mississippi state line. Police say he stole a .357 pistol from a vehicle in Gordo before traveling to Pickens, Ala.
He was linked to another stolen car in Pickens on Jan. 10. The vehicle was recovered in Billings, Miss. On Jan. 11 with an empty handgun holster inside.
Investigators then believe Guillen-Mendez tried to get some money.
“A juvenile male was seen panhandling near a supermarket in the vicinity of the recovered vehicle,” the complaint states. “Surveillance cameras captured a Hispanic male who matches the description of RGM leaving the supermarket parking lot.”
Guillen-Mendez is described as a Hispanic male with a medium complexion, approximately 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds. He also has a tattoo of the word “Mendez” on his right forearm.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Harrisonburg Crime Solvers at 574-5050. Tipsters may text "HPD" plus the tip to CRIMES (274637), or call Central Shenandoah Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-2017.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org