NEWTON — A Dorchester man burst into a small neighborhood bank and splashed an unknown green liquid at startled tellers before grabbing cash and fleeing, police said.
Lashon Payton, 37, allegedly splashed a male teller at the The Village Bank directly in the face and threatened to light the liquid, saying, “I’ll put you on fire.”
Payton was arraigned Friday afternoon and was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail, pending a dangerousness hearing Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to charges of armed robbery and resisting arrest in Newton District Court.
Craig Estes, Middlesex assistant prosecutor, said the defendant has a two-page criminal history that includes violent crimes.
Payton’s attorney, Robert Menton, said the case against his client is one of mistaken identity, that some witness descriptions of the suspect did not match his client.
According to a police report, Payton is employed as a claims specialist by Delta Dental.
“His only mistake today was coming into Newton,” Menton said.
The teller who had the liquid splashed in his face was taken by ambulance to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. He had complained that his skin felt irritated, said Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, spokesman for the Newton Police Department.
The victim and two paramedics who had come in contact with him were quarantined and underwent a decontamination procedure at the hospital before they were released without any symptoms.
Fire investigators made a preliminary determination that the liquid is organic and non-toxic, but a final determination will be made by a laboratory in Jamaica Plain, Apotheker said.
The incident occurred at 9 a.m., less than two hours after the bank, at 89 Wyman St. in Waban Village, had opened. There were two clients inside when Payton allegedly entered and yelled for everyone to get down on the floor.
As the clients and employees complied, Payton allegedly started flinging liquid from a water bottle. He then grabbed $432 from a cash tray and ran out the bank and down Wyman Street, according to police.
Two police officers on detail saw the suspect running and chased him down Tamworth Road.
Police said that moments later they found Payton in the rear of a residence on the 800 block of Chestnut Street, hiding behind a grill.
The bank was closed after the incident and had yellow police tape forming a perimeter around the front entrance.
“That bank has been robbed three times in recent memory,” Apotheker said. “But that is a very safe neighborhood, with a lot of shops there and the Waban T Station across the street.”
Several people who work in nearby businesses declined to comment about the robbery. Authorities plan to look at surveillance video from businesses in the area.
According to the FBI, there have been three bank robberies in each of the past three days in the Boston area, and the region has had about the same number of robberies as in 2011 through June 28.
During Friday’s search for the suspect, Payton allegedly attempted to hide among a group of construction workers gathered on Chestnut Street.
The description of the suspect, given by several witnesses, varied, mostly on his height and clothing.
An officer said he noticed Payton standing among the workers, but did not think he was the suspect because he stood about 5-feet-8, whereas the officer was told to look for a man who stood about 6 feet tall.