SETAUKET, N.Y. – Times must be tough back at the Empire.
A bank robber dressed as "Star Wars" villain Darth Vader made off with an undetermined amount of cash after pointing a handgun at startled tellers inside a Chase bank branch on Long Island.
Detectives say the man walked into the bank shortly before noon Thursday wearing a full head mask and a blue cape. The only part of the uniform that was out of place were his camouflage pants. And that handgun — no light saber.
Suffolk County police detective Sgt. William Lamb told reporters that at least one customer at the time didn't think the theft was legit. The customer, whose identity was not released, can be seen cowering on the floor in a surveillance camera photo, moments after the robber shoved him away.
"The customer thought it might have been a joke and not a serious attempt at a robbery," Lamb told the Daily News.
The only other description of the suspect was his height: between 6 feet and 6-foot-2. He was last seen running across a parking lot.
"I thought it was pretty comical, but I guess this guy was pretty serious about needing some money," Michael Aloisio, who works at a nearby restaurant and saw the bandit run past, told the New York Post.
"I think we need more police and more security here," said Louie Lin, 24, who works at a Chinese restaurant in the shopping center where the bank is located and saw the robber. "People need money so bad nowadays ... maybe next time they will come here and steal from us too."
Heather Apolo, 36, a Chase customer from Port Jefferson Station, said she was surprised the bank had been targeted. "It really is a good area," she said. "They'll probably beef up security and make sure something like this doesn't happen again."
Mike Fusco, a Chase spokesman, declined to comment other than to say bank officials were cooperating with the investigation. The holdup was the 15th in Suffolk County this year; 30 bank heists were reported in 2009.
The robbery comes about a week after a so-called bouquet bandit held up a Manhattan bank.
Authorities say Edward Pemberton used a flower bouquet to conceal a note demanding cash during a $440 bank heist July 15. They say he used a potted plant as a similar prop in a holdup at another bank earlier this month.
There also have been numerous reports around the country of men dressing as women, wigs, sunglasses and all, holding up banks.
A New Hampshire man robbed a bank in 2007 wearing tree branches and leaves.
AP television news journalist David Martin contributed to this report.