PERRYVILLE -- In the movie the boys watched, a gang of surfers wearing rubber masks and toting guns robbed one bank after another.
The 12-year-old thought that was a "neat idea," his mother said yesterday, and decided to pull off his own version of the heists depicted in the movie "Point Break" with his 14-year-old brother and a 13-year-old schoolmate.
Life almost imitated art Monday at a bank in this quiet Cecil County town on the banks of the Susquehanna River. But the boys' would-be getaway car, a cab, arrived too late. They were arrested just as they were about to leave.
At 12:30 p.m., the trio from Havre de Grace, armed with a loaded 20-gauge sawed-off shotgun and a loaded .22-caliber pistol, burst into the First National Bank of North East on U.S. 40., state police said.
Two of the boys wore Halloween monster masks; the other had covered his face with a bandanna and sunglasses. One of them jumped onto the counter and ordered a teller to fill a pillowcase with money, police said. Police caught up with the boys about a quarter mile southwest of the bank, at the home of an elderly relative of the two brothers. Officers would not say how much money was stolen.
First Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, a state police spokesman, said police were surprised to find such young boys taking part in an armed robbery.
"What is of concern to us is that 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds are carrying guns of this type and are committing violent crimes like this," he said. "It's a brazen act that could have deadly consequences."
To hear cabbie David Poole, of DP Cab in Havre de Grace, tell it, the boys might well have escaped if he had rushed his lunch. Instead, he finished eating and arrived minutes before police.
"When the kids came out of the apartment, they had a pillowcase that deep with something," he said, holding his hands two feet apart. "I thought something was up."
He knew something was up when the police cars pulled up, and officers ordered the boys out of the cab.
The three boys were charged as juveniles with armed robbery, theft, reckless endangerment and several weapons violations, said Sergeant Shipley. Their names were withheld because they are juveniles.
At a hearing in the Cecil County Courthouse yesterday, officials ordered the trio be detained for at least 30 days, said Jacqueline Lampell, director of Community Outreach for Juvenile Services.
Officials say they will investigate the boys' backgrounds before deciding further action, if any, against them.
The mother of two of the boys involved said yesterday that they had recently watched the robberies depicted in "Point Break" and suggested that the movie could have inspired Monday's robbery.
"The boys admitted watching the movie and that they thought [robbing banks] was a neat idea," the mother said. "I'm numb, just plain numb. My husband and I can't figure it out."
She said her 12-year-old son talked the other boys into participating in the robbery. The boys got the sawed-off shotgun used in the robbery from a school friend, and the pistol came from another boy, the mother said.
"Who knows what makes them act the way they do?" she said. "If I could answer that, maybe this wouldn't have happened. I sure hope they've learned their lesson."
The boys ran from the bank to a home they frequent regularly, the apartment where an elderly relative of the two brothers lives.
When they arrived yesterday, the woman said: "I didn't think anything was wrong. These boys are always popping in and out of here. They didn't seem to be acting strangely. When the police came, I was completely surprised." A state police bulletin had alerted Toll Facilities Police at the nearby Hatem Memorial Bridge, and officers headed toward the neighborhood, looking for teens matching the description of the suspects.
Witnesses who saw the suspects run across U.S. 222 toward the housing complex alerted police and, as soon as the youths entered the cab, police pulled up and arrested them.
After yesterday's hearing, the 13-year-old suspect's mother choked back tears.
"I don't know what to say, I don't know what to say, I don't know what to say," she repeated, before giving way to her emotions.
In Perryville, a town of 2,500 where serious crime is rare, a robbery involving such young children upset residents.
"I was shocked," said Elizabeth Hodges, who lives in the apartment complex where the boys were arrested. "We don't need this in here. It's all elderly in here. That's the first time anything has happened like that that I know of."