Valley Police discuss pros, cons of social media after armed robbery suspect arrested

Valley Police discuss pros, cons of social media after armed robbery suspect arrested

VALLEY, AL (WTVM) - Social media helped police identify a bank robbery suspect in Valley, Ala.

Police say the case also shined a spotlight on how social media can be used to blame the victim.

Four days after the Heritage bank was robbed, the suspect, 33-year-old Russell Lashley, turned himself in on Sunday night.

Valley Police credit social media tipsters for identifying the suspect.
"One of our investigators made contact with him on Friday via phone and talking to him and his family convinced him to turn himself in, and he did that last night," said Major Mike Reynolds with the Valley Police Department.
Police say Lashley faces first degree robbery and second degree theft charges for Thursday's robbery at Heritage Bank on 20th Avenue, where police say he passed a threatening note to the teller at the drive through window, demanding money.  

Within hours of posting the bank robbery suspects' picture to Valley Police Department's social media pages, tipsters helped police identify the suspect.

However, investigators were disturbed to see how some users criticized the teller and victim in this case. Police say while social media can be a powerful crime fighting tool, it can also lead to victim blaming.

In this case, some social media users called the teller names and criticized her for giving up the money. Some even speculated she was involved. Police say the teller had nothing to do with the crime. 

Heritage employees could not do an on camera interview; however one employee applauded the teller's actions, saying she followed bank protocol to protect employees and customers.   

"I've read some social media posts about it, lot of people saying what they would have done in that situation, they don't  understand how it happened," Maj. Reynolds said. "They have to realize the bank tellers are trained to do certain things and there was more information in the note I did not release to the public that would make the teller fear for her life."

Police also identified the female passenger in the car with Lashely at the time of the robbery, but at this point she has not been charged by investigators. 

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