Originally created 02/12/99

Teen-ager charged in robbery of bank



A 15-year-old Butler High School student was charged with two counts of armed robbery Thursday after a holdup at a NationsBank branch -- making him the fourth Augusta teen charged with armed robbery in a week.

William Richard Nickelson, of the 4200 block of Evary Street, walked into the back customer entrance at the Gordon Highway bank branch when it opened at 9 a.m. wearing gloves and a woman's stocking over his face, said Richmond County sheriff's Chief Deputy Ronald Strength.

The robber pointed what appeared to be a handgun at a bank teller and a customer standing at the counter and demanded money, police said. The gun later turned out to be a BB pistol on a .45-caliber pistol frame.

The victims turned over an undisclosed amount of money, which the robber put into a small zipper bag. As another teller pressed an alarm button, alerting the Richmond County Sheriff's Department, the robber walked out of the bank and got away, police said.

Two minutes later, police spotted Mr. Nickelson walking north on Thomas Lane. He threw the zippered bag, which contained the money and the gun, on top of a building and was trying to climb the building when officers caught him. Mr. Nickelson was taken to the Youth Detention Center.

Police wouldn't say if he had accomplices because the investigation isn't over, but Chief Deputy Strength said that possibility is not being ruled out. No one was seriously hurt during the robbery, but the customer fainted and was treated at the bank.

Chief Deputy Strength said he didn't know the names of the bank customer or the tellers. He expected the names would be listed on investigators' reports, which weren't complete Thursday evening.

Mr. Nickelson's arrest is the fourth time in a week that authorities charged an Augusta teen with robbery.

Two 14-year-olds and a 16-year-old were arrested Feb. 4 after the manager of A-Awesome Pawn Shop on Tobacco Road was shot during a failed robbery.

RaShaan Eugene Bentley, 16; Christopher Lee Thomas, 14; and Christopher Jamean Butts, 14; were accused of trying to steal weapons valued at $2,400. The manager, William Lake, 36, was shot in front of his wife and children. Police are investigating the possibility that the shooting was part of a gang initiation.

Chief Deputy Strength said it was too early in the investigation to determine if the NationsBank robbery was gang-related and as far as he knows, Mr. Nickelson hasn't been in trouble with the law before. The boy's father, Alex Nickelson, declined to comment Thursday.

In the past few years, juvenile crime has increased in Richmond County, Chief Deputy Strength said, especially violent crime.

"Drugs, of course, definitely have played a part in causing this increase," he said. "It's not just a local problem, it's a national problem. And it's nothing you can predict."

In 1998, Augusta's District Attorney's Office obtained indictments against 20 to 25 juveniles who were tried as adults because they were age 13 or older and committed a serious crime such as murder, armed robbery or aggravated assault, said Bill Bowcutt, chief assistant district attorney. Mr. Bowcutt said he could give only a rough estimate because the district attorney's office does not keep records of the number of juveniles prosecuted for these crimes.

"I'm highly disturbed that the national crime rate trend is going down but the juvenile crime rate is not dropping," Mr. Bowcutt said.

Meanwhile, a Pizza Hut restaurant in the same block of Gordon Highway as NationsBank was robbed Wednesday night, but police said the two crimes are not related.

At about 9 p.m., two men held up restaurant manager Doris Walters, 50, of Augusta. She told police one robber carried a silver handgun and threatened to shoot her if she did not give him money, according to sheriff's reports.

He grabbed an undisclosed amount of money, and both robbers fled on foot, traveling north on Kissingbower Road.