Ex-president of Arroyo Grande Rotary Club arrested in bank robbery

Arthur McClay Watkins
Arthur McClay Watkins

An Arroyo Grande therapist allegedly robbed a Santa Maria bank on Saturday, and when he dropped the money, a stranger picked it up and ran away. Police arrested both men.

A police officer spotted Arthur McClay Watkins, 55, fleeing the Wells Fargo Bank at 407 E. Main Street around 9:15 a.m., wearing a ski mask and wielding a handgun, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.

Watkins, who goes by “Clay” Watkins in professional listings, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and served at one time as president of the Arroyo Grande Rotary Club.

Watkins allegedly pointed a handgun at the officer and dropped an undisclosed amount of money as he fled. In turn, the money was picked up by a passerby, who also ran from the officer. The passerby was later identified as Jose Villa Mendez, 19, of Santa Maria.

Police believe the alleged thieves were not working in unison.

Watkins was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer. Mendez was booked on suspicion of grand theft and possession of stolen property.

Watkins has no prior convictions or professional disciplinary actions, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which issues medical practice licenses.

Arroyo Grande Rotary Club President Lenny Jones said Tuesday that Watkins hadn’t been a club member during the last four years, when Jones had become involved in the club. But other club members confirmed that Watkins had at one time served as president, he said.