DENVER | A GPS tracking device hidden with stacks of cash allowed police to track a suspected bank robber before a controversial traffic stop Saturday, according to testimony this morning.
At a hearing in federal court for accused bank robber Christian Paetsch, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Conner said Paetsch grabbed the GPS device when he grabbed $25,000 from six cash drawers at the Wells Fargo bank Saturday afternoon.
Police used the tracking device to determine the robber was in one of 20 cars at east Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road.
Officers stopped all of the cars and cuffed 40 people before they determined Paetsch was the robber, police said.
Paetsch, a former music teacher and violin instructor, is facing up to 32 years in prison if convicted.
The decision to detain several innocent people while investigators searched for a robber has sparked criticism of the police department.
While some have questioned the constitutionality of detaining innocent people during the search, Aurora police Chief Dan Oates this week defended the decision and said the violent nature of the robbery made the detentions necessary.
In Paetsch’s vehicle, Oates said officers found two pistols along with a bee-keeper mask used in the robbery.
Surveillance pictures from the robbery appeared to show the robber holding two pistols, one in each hand. But at today’s hearing, Conner said Paetsch had a pistol in one hand and an air horn in the other.
He blasted the air horn and forced the three tellers and six customers to lie on the ground while he grabbed the cash, Conner said.
Paetsch then fled the area on a bicycle, Conner said, before stopping at a nearby house and getting into a Ford Expedition.
Along with the guns, which were found in a Cherry Creek Schools bag, Conner said Paetsch had disguises and a violin in his car.
At the end of today’s hearing, Judge Karen Mix agreed to let Paetsch, who has been jailed since his arrest Saturday, go free on bond. Mix said Paetsch would be required to undergo a mental health exam and be confined to his home pending trial.
Paetsch’s friends and family, several of whom attended the hearing, declined to comment about the case.