Guilty verdict, 24-year sentence, for Lima bank robber

LIMA — Jurors in the bank robbery trial of Brandon Allen Sr. on Thursday returned a guilty verdict against the Lima man after a brief deliberation.

Allen, 38, was charged with robbing the Union Bank at 1410 Bellefontaine Avenue on March 8, 2022. The first-degree felony count included a three-year specification for the use of a firearm. Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed immediately sentenced Allen to a mandatory prison sentence of at least 24 years, a term enhanced due the Lima man’s designation as a repeat violent offender based on previous convictions.

The quick verdict came after the jurists spent the bulk of the day Thursday watching hours of surveillance video as the state wrapped up its case. Prosecutors said videos taken from businesses surrounding the Lima bank showed a 2013 Ford Edge with distinctive features — a vehicle identical to one owned by Allen — in the vicinity of the bank immediately prior to and following the robbery.

Detective Jesse Harrod of the Lima Police Department walked jurors through the compilation of videos taken from Lee’s Chicken, Lima Memorial Health System, the West Ohio Food Bank, Clarks gas station, Kewpee, Country Inn and Suites and other businesses near the bank. In several of the videos a Black male similar in size to Allen is seen walking toward the bank and running from it following the robbery. In other footage the Ford Edge is seen cruising the immediate vicinity.

The bank teller whose window the robber approached during the holdup testified Tuesday she feared for her life when a Black male entered the building and handed her a note which read: “I HAVE a gun please place All $$ from draw(er) and lock box safe on Counter, NO Die packs or silent alarms or I will Shoot.”

The note was written on the back of a blank check from Superior Bank. The checking account and routing numbers on the check were subsequently traced to Allen.

Surveillance video traced the Ford Edge that was seen leaving the vicinity of the bank to a garage at 952 Bellefontaine Avenue, an address initially believed to be Allen’s residence. Harrod said the suspect was not located during a search of that location later in the day but was apprehended some six hours after the robbery in the 400 block of South Jameson Avenue.

More than $900 in cash was found in the pocket of a jacket Allen was wearing at the time of his arrest. Included in that cash was a $2 bill, a point prosecutors stressed after the bank teller testified earlier that she was certain a $2 bill was among the cash which was given to the robber.

Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Joe Everhart, in his closing statement to jurors, maintained the surveillance videos viewed by jurors showed that Allen was cruising the area prior to the holdup and was carefully planning his exit route.

“This was clearly planned out. The defendant thought he was smart, but he wasn’t that smart,” Everhart said. “A lot of things point to Brandon Allen here. The evidence is clear.”

Defense attorney Steve Chamberlain said the state had failed to prove behind a reasonable doubt that Allen had robbed the bank.

“Who was driving this car shown on the video? We don’t know, not beyond a reasonable doubt. And where’s the gun? No one saw a gun,” Chamberlain said. “This all comes down to the circumstantial evidence the state presented and it just isn’t enough.”

Jurors, however, found the evidence to be sufficient for a conviction.