Man stuck inside ATM room speaks out - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Man stuck inside ATM room speaks out

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A San Antonio worker who got stuck inside an ATM room speaks out about his three-hour ordeal.

James Portillo, who is a contractor, was assigned to change out an electronic door lock located inside an ATM room for a bank in the 900 block of Mesquite Street Wednesday afternoon.

After installing the new lock, Portillo says he was about to walk out of the ATM room when his drill fell out of his hand, and when he bent over to pick up his tool, the door suddenly closed. Portillo noticed the door was also jammed.

"I was, uh, working on the door, and, uh, as I unlocked the door, as I put in the lock on the door, I walked in. As I walked in, my drill fell out of my hand. When my drill fell out of my hand, the door closed, because I bent over to pick up my drill. When the door closed, the door jammed shut. I could not pry the door open from inside. The door was hung up on the metal, and there was no way for me to get out," Portillo told KRIS 6 News.

Portillo said he was not able to pry the door from inside and he realized he left his cellphone inside his truck.

Afterward, Portillo says he thought he could get free if he set off the bank's alarms. After some time had passed, he says he wasn't sure if anyone would respond.

"I set off the alarms in the ATM room and, tried to get out that way, I mean, I gave it a couple of hours. I realized I didn't have my phone, because it was charging in my truck, which was the biggest mistake I made that day," Portillo explained. "And uh, I went into the ATM machine, tried to figure out a way out of there, and set off those alarms. Obviously, the police came, but they couldn't get into the room."

While he was inside, Portillo says he could hear someone calling his cell phone that was the truck. Portillo could hear it was a ringtone he has assigned to his wife's cell phone number. But he had another problem, time.

"I couldn't, I mean, I knew I had a time frame because there was a guy who let me in and he was getting out of work at 5:00. So, if I didn't get out by 5:00, there was only one person who knew I was there, and, you know, they weren't going to be able to contact him to get me out of the room," Portillo said.

Luckily for him, Portillo said he noticed he had a pen and had access to the top half of the ATM, and decided to write "Help Me" notes and push them down a receipt slot where customers get their bank receipt.

If he didn't have the pen, Portillo says he would have cut himself and write his messages in blood.

"I looked around, and I-I never have anything to write with me, on me, on my person, and, you know, I had a knife on me, I figured, you know, I'd just cut myself and write on it like that. And I looked down and I had a pen in my pocket. Thank god I had a pen in my pocket for some reason," he described.

Portillo pushed out a note after a customer used the ATM. Unfortunately, Portillo said he heard someone laugh and walk away.

"So I wrote on the notes and, the first person took it and kinda laughed and just took off on me, which w-was, kinda bizarre for me. Once they took the note, I was like, oh-because my pen was running out of ink and I had to lick the pen so it would write. I only had one note. So, I was like, 'oh, my god, they took off on me.'"

Thankfully, a female customer walked up to the ATM and also received a note from Portillo. She dialed 911 while she asked him is there anything else she could do for him.

"Can you please call my boss to call my wife. Because she is going to kill me," Portillo said.

Moments later, Senior Officer Richard Olden responded, and Portillo's supervisor arrived. Because the door had jammed when it closed, CCPD Officers had to kick down the door to free Portillo.

He was inside the ATM room for a total of three hours.

Portillo says he didn't want to talk about the incident Wednesday because of the circumstances, but once the story had made international headlines and played across different cities, Portillo says in hindsight, the situation was pretty funny.

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