He got out of prison, then robbed a bank the next day, authorities say

Eric Walter Gray had been out of prison for just one day when he allegedly committed a crime that would land him right back in custody.

Federal authorities say the 53-year-old took three employees hostage while robbing an Anaheim bank last month. After he was arrested, they say, he wrote the bank workers an apology note.

On Wednesday, Gray, who has a lengthy criminal history, was charged in a federal indictment with bank robbery and forced accompaniment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

“One day after his release from prison, this defendant allegedly chose to return to crime,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said in a news release. “My office will continue its efforts to prosecute and punish violent recidivist criminals who harm our community.”

Gray’s federal public defender did not respond to a request for comment.

Since 1993, Gray has been in and out of prison for various crimes, including narcotics-related offenses, robbery, petty theft and burglary, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Authorities say his past crimes also include sexual battery and grand theft auto.

Most recently, while on parole in 2023, Gray was sentenced to two years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender and two years for second-degree robbery, to be served concurrently, according to the corrections department.

He received 406 days of pre-sentence credit for time served while awaiting sentencing, and he was eligible for credit-earning opportunities while incarcerated, the agency stated.

Gray, an Orange County resident, was released from San Quentin state prison on May 7.

The next day, he went into a BMO bank in Anaheim, where he loitered for about an hour before jumping over the teller counter, telling an employee he had a gun and demanding money, FBI Special Agent Trevor Twitchell said in an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed in the case.

After taking more than $1,600 from the teller drawers, Twitchell wrote, Gray directed the bank manager and two other employees into a storage room. He eventually let two of the employees out, but he held the bank manager hostage for approximately an hour, according to the affidavit.

At least one bank employee notified law enforcement during the robbery. Eventually, Gray left the storage room with the bank manager, and Anaheim police arrested him, the affidavit says.

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In an interview at the Anaheim Police Department, Twitchell wrote, Gray told a detective that the night of his release from San Quentin he’d smoked crystal meth, which made him extremely anxious and paranoid. Around 12:30 a.m., Gray said, he called 911 and was taken to a hospital, where he remained until they “kicked him out” about 10:30 a.m., according to the affidavit.

He said he then took a bus from the hospital and got off near the BMO bank, where he tried to see if he could get cash using a debit card, the affidavit says. Gray also told the detective that, while at the bank, he’d taken more drugs, Twitchell wrote, and then “out of nowhere” jumped the counter.

Gray wrote an apology letter to the people at the bank; the note was booked into evidence, Twitchell wrote. The letter stated, “To those at BMO bank, I’m sending you my deepest apology. What I put you through.”

After the interview, an additional search revealed that Gray had hidden narcotics and $240 in cash in a body cavity, and he was taken to a hospital to be scanned for other contraband, Twitchell wrote in the affidavit.

While there, Gray repeatedly tried to escape and fought with police officers, resulting in multiple injuries to the officers, according to the affidavit.

Twitchell wrote that the “only thing that stopped the fight was an open palm strike” to Gray’s face. Gray was later sedated and scanned. No other items were found.

“I am incredibly proud of the professionalism, restraint, and compassion of our Officers as they risked their lives to bring this volatile incident to a safe resolution,” Anaheim Police Chief Rick P. Armendariz said in a statement.

Gray has been in federal custody without bond since June 5. If convicted, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

The Orange County district attorney’s office charged Gray in connection with the crime but dismissed its case so the federal case against him could proceed.

Gray is scheduled to be arraigned June 24.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.