How a War Hero Became a Bank Robber

A celebrated Iraq War veteran returns home with severe PTSD and copes with his trauma by robbing banks.

Written by Scott Johnson and Originally Published in Buzz Feeds on May 30, 2012

Around 11:45 on the morning of Saturday, April 23, 2011, a young man wearing sunglasses and a blue hoodie walked into a U.S. Bank in Lyndhurst, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His name was Nicholas Walker, and in his right hand he carried a green Hi-Point .45 pistol. Walker approached one of the teller windows, jostling to the side a woman who was already being helped, and pointed the weapon briefly at Rosa Foster, a bank employee facing him from the other side of a bulletproof glass wall. A video camera captured the moment. Foster, who was pregnant at the time, later told the Lyndhurst police that the robber said, “You know what this is,” before demanding that she hand over the cash from her register, which she promptly did, passing bundles of bills in $100, $50, and $20 denominations, $7,426 in total. Walker stuffed the money into a white plastic bag. Then he ran out through the same door he had entered.

Outside he climbed into a black Ford F-150. In the space behind the cab were several old items of clothing — a few unwashed sweatshirts and T-shirts, some hats and baseball caps. Walker tossed the money and the pistol into a grocery bag on the passenger seat and pulled out of the parking lot. He turned south on Richmond Road. Then he tuned into his favorite station, AM 850 — The Jim Rome Show, a nationally syndicated sports talk program. As he drove, Walker tried to change his clothing. He reached into the backseat and grabbed for another shirt. He took off one hat, revealing a mop of recently dyed jet-black hair, and placed another on his head. The pickup was a mess — cigarette butts, drink containers, and food littered the floor. Walker himself was a mess. As he changed, he noticed once again the burn marks on his arms where he had stubbed out cigarettes.

Walker heard the sirens before he saw the patrol cars, so he sped up. He was pretty sure he’d been identified, but he wanted to make it home anyway — maybe he’d have time to buy some drugs and off himself. Still on Richmond, he drove past gas stations, chain restaurants, and parking lots, weaving back and forth across lanes to increase his distance from his pursuers. Pretty soon the howl of the sirens had all but vanished and Nicholas Walker floated in an eerie but familiar kind of calm — the sort of calm he had only ever felt in Iraq, right after a bomb exploded, or just before he kicked down a door and burst into a living room. In those precious few moments, the world seemed like a peaceful, almost acceptable kind of place. In that way, a bank robbery was a lot like the war: The worse things got, the easier it was somehow to cope. The tension that had been building all morning had now been released.

And then he hit traffic. At the corner of Richmond and Cedar, Walker came to a stop. He sped westbound on Cedar and bumped into a car. Then he swerved to the side, scraping along another car. Now the police were catching up. He swerved violently into oncoming traffic and then back again, running a red light at the entrance to the Legacy Village mall and then hurtling over the edge of the road and into a Burger King parking lot, which he sped across, dropping off a 5-foot embankment. Police caught up, and Walker found himself on the opposite end of a gun. Sirens wailed, and more police cars pulled up quickly.

He heard a voice say, “Get on the fucking ground.”

More voices joined in, and soon he was engulfed in a chorus of obscenities: “Scumbag.” “Fuck.” “Asshole.” Officers threw him facedown against the vehicle. More policemen than he could count had their pistols trained on him. An excruciating pain raced up his spine from the car wreck — he’d broken his back.

Do not fucking cry, Walker thought to himself, as police cuffed him, read him his rights, and bundled him into an ambulance. Whatever you do, do not cry.

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