Deputy arrested after bank robbery was 'very cooperative,' sheriff says

ROCKWELL, N.C. — A Davidson County deputy is accused of robbing the F&M Bank on West Main Street in Rockwell Tuesday afternoon.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said Jeff Athey was arrested around 4 p.m., four minutes after walking into the bank he is accused of robbing with a semi-automatic weapon.

"He was not on-duty during the time of this incident, but he was employed and scheduled to work later today," said Grice.

Grice told Channel 9 Athey has been fired.

"I’m thankful that Mr. Athey did not injure anyone during this incident and that he did not resist arrest," Grice added. He told Channel 9 that a deputy spotted Athey at a stop light on Highway 52 and quickly arrested him. Deputies said he was coherent and very cooperative.

Grice also said Athey never gave any indication of this type of behavior when he employed as a deputy.

"I am as shocked and appalled as anyone else at Mr. Athey's behavior," Grice said.

Grice said Athey worked for the department for years, and also worked as a private contractor for Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no word yet on a possible motive.

“We have a lot of employees, a lot of other agencies and law enforcement. It reflects badly on everyone,” Grice said.

Rockwell Police Chief Hugh Bost said he thinks it may have been a cry for help.

Athey casually walked into the bank and didn’t try to hide his face when he walked up to the teller, police said.

"She said, ‘Do you want that out of checking or savings? I need some information for your account,’” Bost said. “And that's when he brandished the weapon and said, ‘Give me $1,000.’"

Athey left, and instead of taking back roads, he drove down a main road in Rockwell before the deputy stopped him, police said.

Deputies said he was coherent and very cooperative.

"I wonder if it was a cry for help,” Bost said. “I don’t know if he had problems at work, home, medical. When advised of his rights, he decided not to speak.”

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think a cop would do that," one resident told Channel 9.

Athey worked in the civil division, and one of his duties was transporting involuntary commitments, the sheriff said. Athey appeared before a judge Wednesday and asked for a court-appointed attorney.

The bank will reopen Thursday.

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