Police: Hanover robber held cops at bay, likely set house fire

Liz Evans Scolforo
  • James Allen Brown Jr. was sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for robbing a Cumberland County bank in 1995.
  • He is in stable condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital's burn unit, a hospital spokeswoman said.

A Hanover man left behind his driver's license and Social Security card after robbing a borough bank and spurring a standoff by holing up in a home he is also believed to have set afire, according to police allegations.

Police say James Allen Brown Jr. burned himself in the process.

As he walked out of the Members 1st Credit Union at 1221 Carlisle St. shortly before 9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 7, Brown told a teller she could keep his robbery demand note and his identification cards, which he left on the counter, charging documents allege.

Hanover Borough Police released this surveillance photo of the man who robbed the Members 1st Federal Credit Union at 1221 Carlisle St. in the borough on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. 
Police said he is James Allen Brown Jr., and that he caused a lengthy police standoff after fleeing the bank, which ended when the home he had holed up in caught fire.

Brown, 49, of West Walnut Street, is being treated in the burn unit of Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital, Hanover Police Chief Chad Martin said.

He was in stable condition on Tuesday, Aug. 8, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Martin said Brown remains under guard there and will be arraigned after being released from the hospital.

'Intentionally' set: Investigators suspect Brown started the fire inside a home in the 400 block of Pleasant Street, where he had fled, Martin said, but he noted the incident remains under investigation.

"The fire was started intentionally inside the house," the chief said.

After the fire started, Brown "bailed out of the house and was taken into custody" by members of the York County Quick Response Team, Martin said. QRT is the county's SWAT-type unit.

No one else was hurt, he said.

"We set up a perimeter for the safety of everyone involved," Martin said, then "we worked with the subject to try to de-escalate the situation."

That gave officers time for QRT to arrive, the chief said.

Martin said the house where Brown fled after the bank robbery is believed to be the home of an acquaintance.

Hanover Fire Chief Tony Clousher did not return messages seeking information about how badly the house was damaged.

Money or 'you die': Charging documents filed by Hanover Police allege Brown took $1,980 from the Members 1st branch.

During the robbery, he gave a teller a note that stated, "give me all the money in your drawer or you die now," according to documents.

The note was written on the back of a check from the checkbook of Brown's wife — for an account with that bank, documents allege.

The teller later told officers that Brown "continually reached toward his waistband as if reaching for a weapon," documents state. After the robbery, Brown fled in a van, police said.

Police suspect Brown then made his way to the M&T Bank at 33 Roths Church Road in Spring Grove and robbed that bank too, according to Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean.

The Spring Grove bank robbery happened about 1:15 p.m., and no one was hurt, police said.

Southwestern Regional Police said this man robbed the M&T Bank on Roths Church Road in Spring Grove on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. It's believed he is James Allen Brown Jr., accused of robbing a Hanover bank the same day and who police said caused a standoff that ended when he apparently torched the house where he'd holed up.

Third robbery: Martin said Brown also is suspected of robbing a Hanover convenience store in the 600 block of Broadway shortly before midnight on Sunday, Aug. 6.

He demanded a worker open the register then fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, Brown made his way to the 400 block of Pleasant Street, where an officer spotted him going inside a home there, charging documents state.

Police converged on the house, but Brown held them at bay for nearly four hours, police said.

The home's resident came outside shortly after police arrived and was interviewed by investigators. She said she went with Brown to the bank that morning but stayed inside the car, according to documents.

A second woman also was hiding inside the house with Brown, according to Martin, although police weren't immediately aware of that.

"While working to get this female out, a fire was started inside the residence," Martin wrote in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "With the increasing heat and smoke inside the residence, Mr. Brown exited ... through a window and was taken into custody by members of the QRT."

The second woman was then safely removed from the house, he said.

Other robberies: In 1995, Brown was ordered to serve 181 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to robbing a Cumberland County bank, according to federal court records.

He also has a lengthy criminal record in York, Lancaster and Cumberland county courts.

Brown pleaded no contest to robbery in Lancaster County in 2010; pleaded guilty to robbery in Cumberland County in 1995; and was charged with robbery in 2010 by West Manchester Township Police in York County, according to court records. A jury found him not guilty of the West Manchester robbery charges.

He also has pleaded guilty to theft and theft by deception for incidents in Springettsbury Township and Lancaster County, records state.

It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney for his Hanover bank-robbery case, for which he is charged with robbery, making terroristic threats, theft and receiving stolen property.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.