Fredericton — Professional taxi driver LeRoy Barton, 45, of Hanwell, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in front of the Scotiabank plaza on Main Street on suspicion as an accessory to robbery.
Barton was arrested simultaneously with the primary suspect, Judson Heath, 28, of Douglas, after Heath left Scotiabank to return to Barton’s waiting taxi. Police apprehended the suspects after receiving 3 other robbery reports that afternoon from across the city. All reports said the perpetrator fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash into a waiting Checker cab.
After briskly being released from the criminal charge, Barton spoke with The Manatee about his ordeal at the hands of the Fredericton City Police. He was none too happy about his treatment by what he considers “overzealous cops.”
“It’s outrageous!” Barton said. “I was questioned for 2 hours. The cops, they said I could talk to a lawyer. They got someone on the phone who asked me to tell him what happened. It could have been anyone. Maybe someone in the building trying to get something outta me in order to make the charge stick. Whatchamacallit? Entrapping me. I wasn’t biting, no way.
“By the time they took the cuffs off my wrists, they were some red and sore, let me tell you.”
Blissfully unaware of his surroundings, Barton was deep into a smartphone conquest in Clash of Clans at each brief stop during the low-key, daytime heist he was unwittingly aiding and abetting. Barton claims he noticed nothing unusual about Heath, even though the suspect was wearing a ski mask in 20-degree weather. At each stop, the suspect left the taxi with an empty gym bag, returning with it so full he struggled under the weight.
“He said he had some business banking to do — you know, making some withdrawals,” said Barton, scratching his scalp. “I said, ‘Business must be good,’ when I noticed the bags piling up in the back seat.”
Barton also claims he noticed nothing suspicious about Heath that afternoon, and is “royally pissed” about losing his $18 fare and an additional 3 hours of work. “Like I said, a big part of my job is to sit and wait. I’m good at that,” he said. “I might have noticed if he came back all covered in blood, but all I saw was him going into the banks with an empty gym bag and coming out with them full. Nothing weird about that. People carry gym bags all the time.”
Fredericton Police spokesperson Sgt.Terry Collins said they did everything in their power to expedite their investigation into Barton’s claims and get to the facts of the case. “We figured it out in a couple of hours,” she said. “By the time we took his cuffs off, the story had spread through the building. Everyone wanted to take a photo with Mr. Barton, you know, to go with the story later. It’s quite unbelievable really.”
Sgt. Collins explained that Barton complained nonstop about the injustice of his lost fare and hours of work. According to Sgt. Collins, he voluntarily stayed at police headquarters for the third hour, charging five dollars per photo to an amused group of officers and office workers.
“Yeah, we gave him a few bucks,” Sgt. Collins admitted. “It was worth it. It seemed to satisfy his main grievance.”