Steven Allen Watts racked up his first arrest at age 6.
On Wednesday, at the age of 54, he may have experienced his last.
Police took the paroled murderer and once promising amateur boxer into custody, along with a 53-year-old co-defendant, outside an Overland Park bank that had just been robbed.
On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that they had charged Watts and Clifton B. Cloyd, both of Kansas City, with the holdup of a Bank of America branch at 95th Street and Mission Road.
If convicted, both face the probability of spending the rest of their lives in prison.
In the robbery Wednesday, employees and a customer were physically assaulted, including being pistol-whipped. Two employees suffered head injuries that required treatment at a hospital, said Overland Park police.
According to court documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., both robbers were armed with handguns when they entered the bank shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday and ordered five employees and one customer onto the floor.
Victims described Cloyd as being the more aggressive and physically violent of the two.
He allegedly dragged one woman by her hair and struck her in the face several times with a gun. He allegedly struck a female customer so hard it knocked off her glasses. And a male employee’s head was cut open as he was pistol-whipped.
The robbers herded employees and the customer into the vault. That’s when one employee used her cellphone to call 911, according to the documents.
Prairie Village police officer Brian Wolf had just gotten off duty and was driving home when he heard dispatchers broadcasting the robbery. He was nearby and still in uniform, so he drove to the bank.
After a few minutes, Wolf saw two men come out. When he confronted them and identified himself as a police officer, Cloyd raised his hands and got on the ground. Watts ran. Other arriving officers from Overland Park and Leawood chased and caught him in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant across the street, according to the documents.
Both men had been released on parole in 2012, according to Missouri Department of Corrections records.
Before that, each had spent a significant amount of his life behind bars.
Watts was still a teen when a judge sentenced him in 1976 to 27 years in prison on multiple counts of armed robbery. During his 10 years behind bars, he took up boxing. After his parole in 1986, he won a Golden Gloves boxing championship.
But he quickly turned back to a life of crime. In the span of a few days, he robbed a bank in Excelsior Springs and shot a man to death in Kansas City in an illegal drug deal.
Watts was sentenced to life in prison after a Jackson County jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of Vernon C. Reid. After pleading no contest to the federal bank robbery charge, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to court records, those sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
After being sentenced on those cases, he was tried in Jackson County for allegedly robbing a Kansas City grocery store in 1986.
While awaiting a verdict, deputies found a handgun and money hidden in jail clothing that Watts had changed out of for court. A prosecutor at the time said it appeared to have been part of an escape plot. The jury later deadlocked on the robbery charge.
In 1974, Cloyd was the subject of news stories about how he had been arrested 16 times in one year in juvenile cases that included stealing, burglary, robbery, drug possession and disorderly conduct.
As a young adult in 1981, he headed to prison after being convicted of second-degree robbery in Jackson County. After being paroled in 1984, Cloyd was convicted in 1986 of illegally possessing a firearm in Johnson County.
In 2002, he was charged in federal court with possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. For that, he received a 15-year prison sentence.
He would still be in federal prison except for a change in federal sentencing guidelines enacted to rectify a disparity in sentencing between those convicted of crack cocaine charges and those convicted of powder cocaine charges.
In 2009, Cloyd’s sentence was reduced to 10 years. He left federal prison in 2011. At that time, he returned to Missouri to serve the remainder of a previously imposed sentence for domestic assault in Jackson County. Although paroled in January 2012, he remained under federal court supervision in the drug case.
According to federal court records, Cloyd was ordered in July to be on GPS monitoring and home detention for “up to” four months. It was unclear if that order was still in place at the time of Wednesday’s robbery.