SEATTLE - A 40-year-old man dubbed the Alabama Band Bandit - a serial bank robber who threatened to shoot tellers in Bellingham, Shoreline and Lynnwood - has ties to Bellingham and Ferndale, and a criminal record dating back to 1993, according to court records.
Michael Ryan Hardesty, of Woodinville, was arrested Tuesday, Aug. 19, after evading police in Skagit and Snohomish counties, according to authorities. Now he's being held in King County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, awaiting formal charges for at least five bank robberies in July.
In each heist, the Bandit slipped a note to the clerk, saying he would shoot if he didn't get cash, according to the FBI. He struck two Washington Federal banks in Bellingham on consecutive Friday afternoons in July, wearing his trademark disguise: a hat, large-rimmed glasses and what looked like a wig. He never flashed a gun.
A tip led police to the Mark II Motel in Burlington around 7 a.m. Tuesday, where police spotted a green Mercedes - a car that hadn't been used in the robberies but that Hardesty was known to drive - parked outside. Hardesty jumped into the Mercedes and sped off north on Interstate 5, according to Burlington police. Officers lost sight of him before he reached the Bow Hill exit, a few miles to the north.
Six hours later police in Snohomish County spotted Hardesty trying to swap cars near an I-5 exit in Everett. Deputies confronted him. He ran, ditching a.45-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver as he fled, said Shari Ireton, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. A police dog caught up to Hardesty about 15 minutes later, in a neighborhood about 11/2 miles south of the freeway.
After being advised of his rights, Hardesty confessed to the five robberies, according to a probable cause statement filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court.
Court records show over the past two decades, Hardesty has been convicted of crimes in Florida; Michigan; Island County, Wash.; and Whatcom County. His rap sheet includes home burglaries, grand theft, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, forgery and delivering methamphetamine.
He lived on Tull Road in Bellingham in early 2005 and Olson Road in Ferndale in 2006, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.
In December 2006, a Washington State Patrol trooper pulled over a Honda Civic in Whatcom County. The trooper noticed the ignition had been broken out, a telltale sign of a stolen car. Hardesty, the driver, said he didn't have his ID. He gave a fake name - of a real man named Brooke - but it turned out the real Brooke had a revoked license, according to federal court records. The trooper learned the car had been stolen and arrested Hardesty.
He consented to a search of the car. Under the driver's seat the trooper found a Mossberg Plinkster 702 .22-caliber rifle, with a sawed-off 4.5-inch barrel. A loaded gun magazine and hollow-point rifle ammo were recovered from the car, too.
In 2008, Hardesty pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to possessing an unregistered firearm. A federal judge sentenced him to seven years and eight months prison.
It appears he was released before serving the full sentence. Before his arrest on Tuesday, in fact, Hardesty had been wanted on a federal warrant for violating probation.
FBI agents were looking for a getaway driver, too: a white woman seen driving Hardesty from the scene of two robberies. An accomplice hadn't been arrested as of Wednesday, said bureau spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich.
Here's a review of the robbery spree, as outlined by local and federal investigators:
-- A white man walked into a Bank of America in Lynnwood, at 1424 164th St. SW, on Monday, July 7, wearing a dark striped long-sleeve shirt and a dark ball cap with no logo. He slipped a note to the teller and fled with cash at 4:30 p.m. He was described as about 5-foot-6, in his late 30s, and 140 pounds. (Court records from this week say Hardesty, 40, stands 5-foot-9, weighs 170 pounds, and has hazel eyes and a shaved head.)
-- The robber wore his namesake hat - bearing the logo of the southern rock band Alabama - at 12:23 p.m. Friday, July 11, when he struck a Whidbey Island Bank branch in Shoreline, at 20333 Ballinger Way. The robber walked out with $2,000 cash. He hopped into 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 branch 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 look at the Land Rover's license plate, but it was 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 a half a block, but then the trail dissipated. So detectives suspect the robber got into a vehicle.
-In the latest robbery on July 30, 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., then got away.