East Bay robber gives money to priest

July 27, 2009 11:40:01 PM PDT
The hunt is on for a Walnut Creek bank robber -- even though he returned the money.

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The bank robber confessed to a priest but has not gone to police. They are still looking for him, although for many parishioners, a confession should be enough.

It was at the Patelco Credit Union on Broadway in Walnut Creek where police say a man in his 20s walked in and robbed the place. He was wearing a Berkeley sweatshirt and what appeared to be a fake goatee. Police say the man gave a teller a note demanding money. He also claimed he had a gun.

"He fled on foot; we called Concord Police Department and had their canine come in and assist with a track, we were unable to capture him at the time," Walnut Creek Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Jay Hill said.

But three days later, the robber appeared to have regrets. Sunday night, he confessed to a priest at St. John Vianney's Catholic church, claiming responsibility for the robbery while reportedly giving back $1,200 in cash.

"And apparently felt some sort of remorse, and he turned in the cash to the priest, who in turn called us once he left, and turned the money over to us," Hill said.

The robber, however, apparently was not remorseful enough to turn himself into police.

In the eyes of God, that may not matter, according to University of San Francisco professor Ray Dennehy.

"To get absolution from the priest you have to be sorry you did it, have a firm resolve never to do it again, he can't require you to turn yourself in," Dennehy said.

At the church Monday night, no one recognized the robber in the photos. Opinions are mixed as to whether the man is genuinely sorry for what he did.

"I take my hat off to him and to God for teaching him what the right way to do things is," Dave McHuron said.

"I'm just happy he knew some place to come and turned it in and everything worked out all right," Janet Dwight said.

"Confess, no, that's not enough, that's not enough for the people that he terrorized," Tom Davis said.

It is unknown if the priest even knows the name of the bank robber.

Even if he does know, he is not obligated to tell the police department who he is. Under the penal code, such confessions are privileged communications.

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