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It Had to Be More Than Alcohol Ailing Elderly Robber

September 21, 1997|DANA PARSONS

Maybe there's a little Ray Boeger in all of us. You get a little down, you wonder why you can't seem to catch a break, and so you go out and rob a bank. And then afterward, after you got caught because you drove away too slowly in your own car and someone got your license number and the cops were waiting for you at home, you say, "I don't know what got into me."

If nothing else, I'll bet Boeger got some frustrations out. If there were a way to guarantee that no one would ever get hurt and that we'd have to give the money back, we all ought to be allowed to go in and rob a bank every so often.

I'm kidding. We don't applaud bank robbers around here, but if you're 77 like Boeger is and you capped an afternoon of ale-drinking by putting on a fake mustache and trying to knock off a savings and loan, well, we at least give you a little special attention.

Crime doesn't pay, but sometimes it sure can be entertaining.

I don't know what will happen to Boeger. After all, he admitted he had a gun on him when he went into the World Savings & Loan in Huntington Beach last Wednesday and asked for $2,500. He told the teller he had a gun, and that's not funny, because people can panic and do strange or awful things when hearing things like that. Someone in the parking lot could have tried to be a hero, and who knows what might have happened?

Luckily, neither the teller nor anyone else panicked, and Boeger made his getaway, albeit at a somewhat leisurely pace.

Boeger said he's as embarrassed as anybody over what happened. If he has an ironic sense, he also might reflect on the fact he's lived for 77 years, apparently having led a pretty clean life and done some worthy civic things, only to finally get his name in the newspaper in connection with robbing a bank.

Since his capture, Boeger has blamed his misdeed on drinking too much ale that day. I'm going to guess, though, that that wasn't the first day in his life he'd downed some ale, so I'm thinking there

had to be something more than that.

What possesses someone to try to rob a bank? Legend has it that cops once asked bank robber Willie Sutton why he did it, and he replied, "That's where the money is." Unfortunately, it's also where the exploding dye is, which helped undo Boeger's plans. The bank gave him one of those exploding money packs like in the movies, and the red dye detonated while Boeger was driving off, making a mess of things.

Unlike Sutton, Boeger apparently didn't put nearly as much thought into his strategy. He says, in fact, he was eating at a Subway sandwich shop when he looked across the street and saw the bank's sign.

From there, we can only hypothesize. From somewhere deep down in that part of us that feels overmatched or pushed around or deserving of more, did Boeger derive inspiration? Life can seem pretty humdrum while eating a submarine sandwich on a Wednesday afternoon. Robbing a bank must have sounded pretty exciting by comparison.

How many of us have wondered what it would be like to make the big score? Haven't we been fascinated over the years by Bonnie and Clyde and the Brinks holdup? Maybe Boeger started thinking like that. All of a sudden, the adrenaline starts flowing and thoughts of risk are out the door, and so, it seems, was Boeger.

Criminals usually have a reason for having done what they did. Sometimes, it strikes a chord; usually it falls on deaf ears. A lot of times, it comes down to them thinking the world owes them a living. I suppose you could put that spin on Boeger's caper, but when a man begins his criminal career at 77, something else must be going on.

Reading about Boeger made me think of another elderly person I saw one night last week. She was sitting alone on a chair in the corner of a convenience store. She appeared to be in her 60s, noticeably forlorn and perhaps frightened. The clerk said the woman "didn't want to go home," but the clerk wasn't sure why.

The police arrived, and patrolmen coaxed the woman into a squad car. I presume they took her home and tried to smooth things over.

The situation left both the clerk and me a little down ourselves. A lot of troubled souls out there, we said to each other.

For at least a while one afternoon last week, Ray Boeger was another of those troubled souls. He had financial problems, he told the cops, and then he started drinking. Even though every rational instinct must have told him you don't rob a bank, he did.

Boeger wants to blame it on the ale. I'm guessing it had to be something much heavier and darker weighing on his mind than that.

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821, by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail at

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