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Rock Hill cabbie helped catch suspect in bank robbery

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week, Barbra Jones drives her cab across Rock Hill, taking customers where they need to go.

But Tuesday was different.

One of Jones' passengers that day was a man police say robbed a bank just minutes before.

John Edward Burchfield Jr., 49, of Rock Hill was charged with possession of a fake bomb and entering a bank with the intent to steal, according to Rock Hill police. He was booked at the Moss Justice Center in York . His bail was set at $60,500.

About 9:17 a.m. Tuesday, a man walked up to one of the tellers at the Citizens South bank branch, 2215 India Hook Road, and pulled out a package from underneath his jacket, according to a Rock Hill police report released Wednesday. "It's a bomb, and I have the igniting switch. I will blow it up if you don't give me money," he said.

Bank employees noted the robber did not seem nervous and even smiled.

The bomb was fake, police said. It was described as a brown box with a cellphone attached to it and blue wire connecting the box and the phone.

The robber fled with the money.

After police responded, an officer saw Jones' cab pull into the Deerfield Run Apartments near the bank.

Jones told The Herald on Wednesday that Burchfield had called the Veteran's Cab Co. office and asked to be picked up at the apartments, which a police report lists as his address.

The cops "stopped me and said they were looking for somebody," Jones said.

She said the company's cab drivers previously have been asked to watch out for suspicious people. But it was the first time the warning was valid.

When Jones arrived at the apartment, a woman later identified as Burchfield's girlfriend walked to the cab with a Chihuahua and got in. Burchfield appeared through a breezeway at the apartment and also got into the car. They told Jones they were going to the Walmart on Old York Road in Newport, about five miles away, she said.

As they entered the cab, Jones made a comment about there being a lot of police around. "They're not looking for us," the girlfriend replied, according to Jones.

For a few miles, it seemed police were not pursuing. "I thought everything was OK because the police hadn't pulled us over," Jones said.

But officers stopped the cab at Twin Lakes and Celanese roads and approached the car.

"I turned around then and asked, 'What did you guys do?' " Jones said.

After they were pulled over, Burchfield told the officer his girlfriend "had nothing to do with it" and admitted to robbing the bank, according to the report. He also admitted the bomb was fake.

The girlfriend was not charged.

Jones said police immediately asked her whether she was OK.

"I told them, 'I'm OK,' " she said. The officers then said Burchfield was suspected of robbing a bank.

After talking with officers for a few minutes, she checked on the couple's Chihuahua. She had taken a liking to the dog. Jones then returned to work.

With such an exciting day behind her, Jones once again returned to work Wednesday with a smile on her face for all of her customers - and the knowledge that she helped catch a suspect.

"I have to say, Rock Hill police did a great job," she said. "At no time did I feel threatened."