News, January 22, 2015
All of the witnesses–including his victims–described the suspect as “white” but this confessed armed robber was actually wearing an incredibly convincing race-changing mask.
A Canadian court heard that Solomon Zemichael Teklie carried out a carjacking and two bank robberies before police pulled him over and arrested him–all in the space of 37 minutes.
He has pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery.
“I don’t know where this mask was made, I don’t know where it came from, but it’s uncanny how much it looks like a real person,” Edmonton crown prosecutor Carrie-Ann Downey said.
“It was so realistic that each witness on this file thought that Mr. Teklie was white. He is not white.”
Teklie began his January 2014 crime spree by holding a pellet gun to the head of Caroline Ombago in a shopping mall carpark before forcing her from her Honda Civic at about 11am.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Ombago said she had believed the gun was real and the event had left her sleepless and so fearful she had to leave town.
Minutes after the carjacking, Teklie walked into the Bank of Montreal and flashed his weapon to a teller, who handed over $1,000 (AUD$1010).
He then drove to a CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) branch, telling an employee:
“You have 30 seconds to give me the money.” He received $100 in $10 bills before fleeing in the stolen car.
Bank staff described Teklie as a white man to police, although two employees noticed he had “damaged” or “strange” skin.
Minutes later, officers spotted the vehicle Ms Ombago had reported stolen, pulling him over taking him into custody.
“This was a planned spree,” Ms Downey said. “Mr. Teklie had a plan. It might not have been a good plan, but it was a plan.”
Defence lawyer Deborah Hatch said Teklie had spent years in a Kenyan refugee camp after fleeing his native Ethiopia before entering Canada illegally.
Ms Hatch said her client was stateless because he had no documents and may not be deported after serving his sentence.
“He had a tragic and violent childhood marked by death and aggression most of us will never see,” she told the court.
Teklie apologised to the court, saying: “I’m truly sorry for my actions. That’s all I can say.”
He will be sentenced on Feb. 23.