PORTLAND – Bill Umbel went to the TD Bank branch office at 481 Congress St. late Tuesday afternoon with the intention of making a deposit into his account.
Instead, the local music club owner ended up helping another customer thwart a robbery.
“At first I thought it was just another street fight. I said, ‘Guys, take it easy,’” said Umbel, who owns Empire Dine and Dance, a music venue and restaurant on Congress Street. “Then the guy (who tackled the robber) yelled, ‘He’s trying to rob the bank. I need some help here.’“
The 6-foot-3-inch Umbel obliged, dropping to the floor of the bank lobby where he held the suspect’s right arm out of concern he might try to reach for a hidden weapon.
The other customer had the would-be robber in a headlock. A third customer got into the action as well, pinning the man’s legs to the floor.
By the time Portland police arrived, 31-year-old Benjamin Poirier of Naples had passed out.
Poirier was transported by ambulance to Maine Medical Center, where he was treated and released to the Cumberland County Jail.
Umbel, whose father served in the military, said he would do it again if the situation arose.
“The bottom line is, sometimes you’ve got to do the right thing,” Umbel said during an interview at his restaurant Wednesday night.
Portland police said the robbery attempt began around 4 p.m. when Poirier walked into the bank, which is just off Monument Square next to the Time and Temperature building, and handed a teller a note demanding money.
The suspect claimed to have a gun, but no weapon was displayed or found, police said.
Poirier started to walk away from the counter with an undisclosed amount of cash, but he didn’t get very far.
Umbel said the customer “slammed him. He right-hooked him” in the side of the face.
“He didn’t see it coming. Then (the customer) jumped on his back and got him in a chokehold,” Umbel recalled.
A few moments before the tussle broke out, Umbel had started to grow suspicious.
As the bank’s manager walked by him, Umbel said hello, but the manager, who knows him, did not respond.
After Poirier had been taken away by police, Umbel introduced himself to the guy who tackled the robber. He invited him over to the Empire Dine and Dance for a beer.
The man, who Umbel only knows by his first name, Doug, told Umbel he is the lead singer and songwriter for a band called HD R&B. The band was heading off to Gloucester, Mass., to play a gig on Wednesday, and the man could not be reached.
Doug accepted Umbel’s offer of a drink.
“I told him he had some good material to write (a song) about,” said Umbel, who invited the band to book a performance date for Empire Dine and Dance.
Umbel, a 53-year-old Portland resident, said he has put the incident behind him and wishes his friends and acquaintances would do the same. He said his Facebook page is loaded with messages, and a friend, Jack Jolie, a country western performer, has already written a song about Umbel’s exploits.
Umbel returned to TD Bank on Wednesday to complete his deposit, and the branch manager thanked him.
Umbel says he’s hoping TD Bank will reward him — with four skybox tickets to a Red Sox game.
“I know they have Sox tickets,” he said, joking.
Poirier is being held at the jail on $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety. It’s unlikely he will be released because he is also being held on a probation violation, according to jail intake workers.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: