Most bank robbers opt for some sort of face covering to mask their identities. But when Jerrad Schmittle, a White man, attempted to rob a Wells Fargo Bank in Corona, California, on Aug. 18, he donned a bit of a different disguise. Schmittle decided to commit the crime wearing blackface.
The East Bay Times reported that 40-year-old Schmittle was arrested on Nov. 9 on suspicion of attempted robbery. Although the entire foiled attempt at a quick payday was caught on surveillance video, the man was not positively identified until Nov. 1.
According to investigators, the would-be-bank-robber entered the bank wearing a navy blue beanie and a dark gray jacket “with obvious dark makeup to disguise his appearance.” Schmittle gave the teller a note where he demanded cash. Reportedly, he also told the Wells Fargo employee that he was armed.
Rather than give in to his demands, a bank employee triggered a silent alarm which alerted the Lake Elsinore sheriff’s station who promptly responded. Schmittle had already fled empty-handed once police arrived at the scene. Eventually, investigators gathered enough information to arrest Schmittle who was booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in French Valley.
The good news here is that the man did a horrible job of covering his face and hands with that muddy makeup–he didn’t fool anybody. But had he been successful, yet another Black man could have taken the fall for his crime. According to the NAACP, Black people are incarcerated at a rate of over five times that of White people. And in 2014, 34 percent of the 6.8 million people in prison were Black people.
Making matters worse, the National Registry of Exonerations found that almost half of the innocent defendants who were wrongfully convicted but later exonerated since 1989 are Black. But if their records are not expunged, a conviction can reduce that person’s chances of being called in for an interview or offered a job by 50 percent, the report said.
Attempted robbery isn’t the only crime that Jerrad Schmittle has committed here. He should be held accountable for misrepresenting an oppressed group of people in the process.