BELLINGHAM - A bank robber who struck two Washington Federal branches in Bellingham is suspected of hitting three other banks in Lynnwood and Shoreline in the past six weeks, the FBI announced Tuesday, Aug. 12.
The FBI's Seattle bureau is offering a $5,000 reward for a tip leading to the arrest of the Alabama Band Bandit. He's nicknamed for a hat he wore in one of the robberies, with the logo of the southern rock band from the '80s.
He's wanted for "at least five" robberies committed in July, all of them along the northern Interstate 5 corridor. He wears a wig and aviator-style sunglasses, though sometimes he goes wigless or wears clear lenses. He has threatened to shoot tellers but never flashed a gun, said FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich.
According to the FBI and local police:
-A white man walked into a Bank of America in Lynnwood, at 1424 164th St. SW, on Monday, July 7. He wore a dark striped long-sleeve shirt and a dark ball cap with no logo. He slipped a note to the teller, then fled with cash at 4:30 p.m.
-He wore the namesake Alabama band hat at 12:23 p.m. Friday, July 11, when he robbed a Whidbey Island Bank branch in Shoreline, at 20333 Ballinger Way. The culprit got away in a teal Nissan Pathfinder with a dark hood. Police said a white woman drove the SUV.
-On Friday, July 18, the same woman drove him to a Washington Federal bank, at 4110 Meridian St., in Bellingham. Again, the bandit passed a note to a teller, then fled around the back of the back building at 4:55 p.m. He jumped into an SUV, but this time, a greenish Land Rover Discovery with luggage tied down on the roof beneath what looks like a tarp. One security camera got a dead-on shot at the Land Rover's license plate, but it's too blurry to make out the plate's numbers.
-On the following Friday afternoon, July 25, another Washington Federal branch in Bellingham was robbed when the robber handed a note to a teller at 3:40 p.m. The suspect wore a striped cream-colored shirt, a black hat, what looks like a long grayish blond wig, and large glasses with clear lenses. A Bellingham police dog trailed his scent on Lakeway Drive for about half a block, but then the trail dissipated. So detectives suspect the robber hopped into a vehicle. No footage of a getaway car has been released, however.
-In the latest robbery, at a Wells Fargo two blocks from the first Lynnwood bank, the suspect wore sunglasses, a plaid shirt and a tan sun hat with a floppy brim. He handed the note to the clerk at 12:30 p.m. No photos of a getaway car were recovered.
Because of the robber's getup and conflicting witness descriptions, police haven't pinned down his age, Dietrich said. He could be in his 30s, 40s or 50s. Close-up photos show scars on his face.
Until now police had cautiously avoided saying all of the robberies are linked. A task force of five police agencies continues to investigate, Dietrich said. They're hoping a tip from the public could help to crack the case.
So if you know anything about the robber, his accomplice, the cars - or any tip that could help the FBI to make an arrest - contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Callers to Crime Stoppers are eligible for an extra reward of $1,000, on top of the FBI's $5,000 reward.