Accused bank robber wants case dropped because of controversial traffic stop


AURORA | A day after a Wells Fargo loan officer refused to renegotiate his loan, a local music teacher stormed into the bank with a pistol and stole more than $25,000.

Now, Christian Paetsch’s lawyer is trying to have the case tossed and accusing police of using an unconstitutional traffic stop to nab Paetsch and 40 others after the robbery.

In a 22-page motion filed last month, Paetsch’s lawyer, federal public defender Matthew Belcher, argued all the evidence police found in Paetsch’s SUV after the June 2 robbery — including $25,000 cash, two pistols, a GPS tracking device from the bank and the mask worn during the robbery — should be thrown out.

Belcher said that Aurora police violated Paetsch’s Fourth Amendment rights when they stopped 25 cars at an Aurora intersection and detained 40 people while searching for the robbery suspect.

“Under any review of the facts, Mr. Paetsch’s seizure was not based on individualized, reasonable suspicion and was therefore unjustified at its inception,” Belcher wrote.

Police used the GPS tracker hidden in a stack of money to track Paetsch to East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road, according to federal prosecutors. There, police stopped all eastbound cars for more than an hour, detaining about 40 people.

In their response to Belcher’s motion, prosecutors said the stop was legal and necessary because police only had a short window of time to catch the robber before they found the GPS tracker.

A judge is scheduled to rule on Belcher’s motion in October.

The prosecution’s response marked the first time prosecutors have said why Paetsch may have robbed that Wells Fargo on that particular day.

According to the motion, Paetsch and his wife went to the bank June 1 to try to renegotiate their loan, but the bank refused. Paetsch’s wife stormed out of the bank in tears, prosecutors said, and the next day Paetsch came back to the bank and robbed it.

The loan officer who rejected Paetsch’s request was in the bank during the robbery, prosecutors said.

Belcher’s motion detailed the traffic stop that several local attorneys have said was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

According to the motion, police forced the drivers to keep their hands up for more than an hour. One woman wasn’t allowed to put her car in park and had to keep her foot on the break the entire time. A 4-year-old girl strapped in her car seat urinated on herself during the stop, Belcher wrote, and an African-American woman who clearly didn’t match the robber’s description was arrested in front of her son. Officers had guns pointed at the cars throughout the stop, Belcher said.

“The flagrant misconduct by these officers is inexcusable,” he wrote.

Police have defended the traffic stop and said they had to do it to catch a dangerous robber who minutes earlier terrorized several people in the bank.

Paetsch was released from jail on bond  a few weeks after the robbery.

An accomplished violin player, Paetsch previously taught music in Aurora, Cherry Creek and Douglas County schools.