Police have arrested a man accused of robbing two banks and leading police on a chase that prompted a multi-state criminal investigation earlier this week.
Brandon Simmons, 34, last known to have lived in Seabrook, New Hampshire, is suspected in an armed robbery Monday morning in York, Maine. He is also accused in a separate robbery of a CVS Saturday in Newburyport.
Authorities arrested him at a Homewood Suites hotel on Route 1 in Peabody on Wednesday morning, Massachusetts State Police said. They said he was taken into custody after a violent struggle in the lobby of the hotel.
“I heard a bang at the door...and I go who is it? 'Feds.' I said hold on. And they just kicked in the door," said a man who would only identify himself as “Phil C.”
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Phil C says he’s good friends with Simmons and was sharing the hotel room with him.
“I’ve been paying for his hotel for the past couple of days to keep him safe and not harm anybody or himself or get himself killed, or kill somebody else,” he said.
A state police trooper on patrol had observed a stolen vehicle Simmons was believed to have been driving parked outside the hotel on Wednesday morning. The arrest came a short time after police in neighboring Danvers observed Simmons driving and attempted to stop him. He refused to stop and fled from officers, temporarily avoiding capture.
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Simmons was arraigned Wednesday in Newburyport District Court in connection with a prior drug store robbery in that city. He will be issued a summons to Peabody District Court at a later date to answer to charges connected to Wednesday morning's incidents.
“Both robberies the suspect was stated to have passed a note indicating that he had some type of bomb,” said the prosecutor in Newburyport District Court Wednesday.
“He might have done something but he definitely didn’t do all of this because I was with him the last five days…If he was going to rob a bank or rob something I’d be the first one to know,” said Phil C, adding that Simmons suffers from mental health issues.
While on the run, prosecutors say Simmons led police on a violent pursuit through several communities between Seabrook, New Hampshire, and Salisbury, Massachusetts -- even injuring an office, the prosecutor said in court.
Simmons was brought into court in a wheelchair and was held without bail on past warrants. He’s now facing more than a dozen new charges including assault to murder. He pleaded not guilty.
Simmons attorney wanted him taken to a hospital for injuries, and a detox program, but he’s being held without bail until a dangerousness hearing on Nov. 10.
Wednesday's arrest came two days after Simmons fled from a police officer in Salisbury, Massachusetts, when the officer tried to pull over his vehicle after noticing that the van he was driving matched the description of the one used in the Maine bank robbery earlier that day. Police said Simmons hit the officer in the face and sped off after a brief struggle.
Multiple police agencies were involved in the chase, but it was called off after authorities said the pursuit had become too dangerous. Afterward, the van Simmons was driving crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of Elm Street and Gardner Street, police said.
The driver of the other vehicle was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Simmons allegedly claimed to have a bomb during the bank robbery in Maine, police said, prompting a bomb squad to search the crashed vehicle in Salisbury. That vehicle was cleared, police said, and no explosives were found in a motel room that was also searched.
Massachusetts State Police have not offered more information on the robbery in Maine, but police in York said Bangor Savings Bank on Route 1 was robbed around 10 a.m. on Monday.
The man fled with money and witnesses saw him get into a white van with New Hampshire plates, York police said.
State police said the Maine bank robbery investigation Simmons was wanted for is ongoing and the FBI is the lead agency on that case.