Good Samaritan helps security guard tackle bank robbery suspect

Local News

A Birmingham man has been hailed as a hero after he helped stop a robbery in progress at a local bank. 

The incident occurred at America’s First Federal Credit Union at 1200 4th Avenue North on April 9.

Scott Arnett told CBS 42 he had an odd feeling when he first walked into the bank and noticed it was not as busy as it usually is. As he approached the teller, he heard frantic voices that clued him into the crime. 

“[The robber] was saying to the guard: ‘Give me that gun, give me that gun’ and [he] just kept repeating that and that was all he said,” Arnett said. “And the guard kept saying: ‘No, no, no’ and it was just going back and forth and the guard was trying to move around, you know, trying to get away from him, but you know, he really had him tight.”

Arnett said the robber had the guard in a head lock and Arnett believes the guard would not have had a chance if he had not stepped in. 

As the robber and the guard wrestled, Arnett said the robber leaned back and that is when Arnett took action. 

“I went for him around the chest and I grabbed him and I pushed him down on the ground real hard so he couldn’t get up,” Arnett said. 

Arnett said he made sure the robber stayed down and the security guard was able to break free without relinquishing his gun.

“[The guard] had pointed the gun down at [the robber’s] back and said, you know, don’t move,” Arnett said. 

When Birmingham police arrived, the robber was taken into custody. 

Police identified the robber as 53-year-old Mark Anthony Nelson. He was booked into jail on complaints including 1st degree robbery and 2nd degree assault on a $25,000 bond. 

“It was just a spur of the moment thing, you know,” Arnett said. “You never know what you’re going to do unless you face that kind of situation, but I just maintained my cool. I mean, he could have got the gun, he could have shot me, or any of the people in there. Which is why I did it. Just to prevent that.”

CBS 42 Reporter Ariana Garza asked Arnett whether he ever had any concern that he may be shot.

‘”It ran through my mind, but I was willing to take that chance,” Arnett said.

Though Arnett is currently unemployed and actively looking for work and appreciates the monetary reward from the bank, he said the real reward is knowing he helped and nobody was injured. 

His friend, John Vaci, and fellow church member from the Lutheran Church of Vestavia Hills has devoted much of his time to helping Arnett find work and he hopes the community will help Arnett too. 

“He’s my hero, you know, he’s just a great guy, a very likable guy,” Vaci said. “But the main thing is he wants to work, he wants to contribute. He does have some limitations but there’s several jobs that he wants to do.”

Arnett is currently on disability following a close call with basal cell carcinoma which required extensive facial surgery.

Vaci said he has been trying to find Arnett jobs such as washing cars, delivering car parts, janitorial work or anything similar. 

“I think the entire city is going to feel safer knowing that Scott’s there and anytime there’s a bank robbery, you need to call him up,” Vaci joked. 

If you’d like to get in touch with Arnett or Vaci, you can send an email to or call (205) 488-4234.

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