Deputy accused of robbing bank, arrested moments later

Athey (David Whisenant | WBTV)
Athey (David Whisenant | WBTV)
Athey (Credit: Rockwell Police Dept.)
Athey (Credit: Rockwell Police Dept.)
(Sky3 | WBTV)
(Sky3 | WBTV)

ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Davidson County sheriff's deputy was arrested after being accused of robbing a bank in Rowan County Tuesday afternoon.

Davidson County Sheriff's deputy Jeff Athey, 51, is charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The robbery happened at the F&M Bank in the 400 block of West Main Street in Rockwell just after 3:30 pm. According to Rockwell police, a man - believed to be Athey - walked into the bank and pulled out a black Glock 42 handgun. He then told the clerk he needed money.

Rockwell resident Tracie Rendleman said she was driving through the bank to make a deposit as the robbery was happening. She said she briefly spoke to a teller at the drive-thru window.

"One of the girls came and pulled the blind up and said, 'you know, we're being robbed'," explained Rendleman.

She said she took off out of the parking lot after being notified of the robbery. Rendleman said she didn't even have a phone with her to use to call the police.

Athey left the bank in a silver Mustang after receiving an "undisclosed amount of cash" from the bank teller, police said. The Rowan County Sheriff's Office said he was taken into custody near the intersection of Hwy 52 and Crescent Rd within five minutes of the 911 call.

Rockwell Police say all the money taken during the robbery was recovered.

Athey was fired from the Davidson County Sheriff's Office following his arrest.

"I am shocked and appalled as anyone else about Mr. (Jeff) Athey's behavior," said Davidson County Sheriff David Grice. "During his employment with our agency he gave no indications that this type of behavior could occur."

Athey had worked for the Davidson County Sheriff's Office for "several" years according to Grice, and once worked in private security for Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No injuries were reported during the robbery, according to Rockwell Police Chief Hugh Bost.

Athey was taken to the Rowan County Detention Center, charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and placed under a $500,000 bond.

"I don't understand why he done it. That's the bad thing about it," said Jerri Johnston, an employee at the Hardees restaurant across from the bank. "There has to be an explanation as to why a person would rob a bank especially being a cop."

The Rockwell Police Department was assisted by the Rowan County Sheriff's Department, Granite Quarry Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Rowan County Sheriff's Office or the Rockwell Police Department.

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