August 28, 2003, roughly 1:30 PM: Mama Mia’s Pizzeria in Erie received a call from a payphone at a nearby gas station, and the owner picked it up. He couldn’t understand what the caller was saying, so he passed the phone to Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery driver that’s been working with the pizzeria for ten years. This was the beginning of a complex and bizarre crime. This is the story of what will be known as The Pizza Collar Bomber.

The Day of The Robbery

On that same day, at around 2:30 PM, 46-year-old Wells entered the PNC Bank at Summit Towne Center and handed a note to the teller demanding $250,000 and that he would use his cane-looking shotgun on anyone who would not cooperate. He also had a bomb seemingly shacked around his neck, which the note also said would explode if the money was not handed to him in 15 minutes. He pulled his shirt down and showed a metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. The bankers informed him that it was impossible to access the vault within the time he’d given due to the safeguards in accessing the vault. Wells asked to just give all the money available. According to witnesses, Wells looked confident and even took the time to suck a lollipop when he reached the counter. The sum handed to him was $8,702. He then exited the bank.

Brian Douglas Wells. PA Department of Motor Vehicles / via Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use

15 minutes and a few 911 calls later, Wells was found by the police hanging out in a parking lot not too far from the bank he had just robbed, which was not the most brilliant idea. Naturally, he was tackled by the police. As he was handcuffed, he told the cops that three black men had placed the bomb around his neck and that it could explode any minute. The bomb squad was called, and the officers took their positions behind the car. For 25 minutes, Wells was just sitting on the pavement. At one point, he asked, “Did you call my boss?” concerned that his employer thought he ditched his job. Unfortunately for Wells, the bomb started to beep, and he tried to scoot back to save himself from the explosion. The bomb detonated and blowing a five-inch hole on his chest. The bomb squad arrived 3 minutes later.

The Scavenger Hunt

The enforcers checked Wells’s car and found nine pages of hand-written instructions addressed to the “Bomb Hostage.” The instructions included specifically timed tasks about robbing the bank and finding various keys and combination codes along Erie. It was complete with illustrations and maps and a fair amount of not-so-gentle warnings of what would happen if he ignored the instructions. One of which was that they would detonate the bomb remotely, so he must “ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”