Bank of America employees mistake ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler for a bank robber

The director was cuffed at a Georgia Bank of America in January after suspicious staff mistook him for a bank robber.


The incident occurred after Coogler, wearing a medical face mask, sunglasses, and a hat resembling a beanie, handed the teller a withdrawal slip that read, “I would like to withdraw $12,000 cash from my checking account. Please do the money count somewhere else. I’d like to be discreet.”


Due to the large amount of the transaction, the employee received an alert. She conferred with her manager and the police were called. Cops detained two car occupants who were waiting for Coolger. The ‘Black Panther’ director was handcuffed and after a more thorough investigation, the police found that Coolger had not committed a criminal act. 


The Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money laundering law, requires banks to report all cash deposits and withdrawals of $10,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service. So, it’s surprising that the Bank of America teller would be alarmed by the alert that she received when she started the $12,000 withdrawal request. Perhaps she was improperly trained. It’s possible that she was already suspicious that Mr. Coogler was wearing sunglasses and a COVID face mask, and after receiving the transaction alert, her suspicions were compounded. 


But, that’s still questionable considering that for more than two years during the COVID pandemic, nearly every face in America has donned a face mask, even in banks. Last year, Bank of America even made headlines after a customer was arrested for refusing the leave the bank after she was told that she needed to wear a mask to receive service. It’s hard to imagine that banks, especially one as big as Bank of America, would not have counseled employees on the best practices for interacting with customers that wear face coverings.


Ryan’s note also requested to withdraw funds from his own bank account. Did the Bank of America employees question that he was actually Ryan Coogler? It would still be hard to believe that after over two years, Bank of America doesn’t have protocols in place to confirm the identity of a person wearing a face mask.


Regardless of Bank of America’s reasoning, Ryan Coogler told Variety, “This situation should never have happened.” He added, “However, Bank of America worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.”


Leave a Reply