Local News

Cary man trying to turn his life around after drugs, crime

Posted November 27, 2014 8:29 p.m. EST

— Andrew Bajerski became an uncommon criminal.

After a middle-class Cary upbringing, the Eagle Scout and Enloe High School graduate came within three classes of getting his chemical engineering degree at North Carolina State University.

But after a drunken dive into a pool in 2011, Bajerski needed surgery for a broken neck. He became addicted to pain killers, then eventually harder drugs including heroin.

“I’m an addict, and I’m not ashamed to admit it,” he said Thursday. “I kept getting more and more medicine to cope with the pain, then I started also getting the intoxicating effect, so I unfortunately lost sight of myself.”

His life spiral included a DWI charge and an arrest for breaking into cars in search of drug money. Then in September 2013, Bajerski walked into a Fifth Third Bank in Cary. Motivated by a TV show, he handed the teller a note and walked out with cash.

“In my twisted thinking at the time, my criminally addictive thinking, the Andrew that I was and the Andrew and am today, I was thinking, well that's a really good idea, let me go try that,” he said. “I mean who in their right mind thinks robbing a bank is a good idea?”

Police with guns drawn caught him within hours.

“It's just hard for me to think about how far I let myself go,” Bajerski said.

But he has no regrets.

That’s because it took nearly a year in and out of jail and failed rehab stints to finally shake his core. Because he had no prior felonies and no violence, he received a lesser sentence for the bank robbery charge.

“I was incredibly fortunate,” he said.

Sober again, Bajerski is working to rebuild his life. But potential employers who Google him find mug shots.

“They're probably going to look at it and say this guy's a robber, why would we want him to work here,” he said. “So, it's tough.”

Reset with goals, Bajerski knows he can't erase his mistakes. But he's determined not to be defined by them.

Bajerski said he's eight months clean in his ongoing rehab and started a telemarketing job this week. He hopes to finish his chemical engineering degree at NCSU next year.

“I have a lot of people I want to make proud, like my family, people in the community, people that have been praying for me throughout my struggle,” he said.