EVERETT - A man suspected of robbing five Western Washington banks - two of them in Bellingham - was arrested Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19, in Everett.
The 40-year-old Woodinville man, dubbed the "Alabama Band Bandit" because of a hat he wore in one of the robberies, struck banks in Lynnwood, Shoreline and Bellingham last month in a spree up and down the northern Interstate 5 corridor, according to the FBI and the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. His name hadn't been released as of Tuesday evening.
In the latest heist, three weeks ago at a Wells Fargo branch in Snohomish County, the bandit walked into the bank wearing a hat and large-rimmed glasses, then handed the clerk a note demanding cash or else he'd shoot - just as he'd done in the other robberies, according to the FBI.
On Tuesday, a blue Mercedes he's associated with was spotted at the Mark II Motel in Burlington, at 808 Nevitt Road, said Burlington Police Officer Jed Cates. Once the man noticed police, he jumped into the car and fled north on I-5. Burlington officers lost sight of him before the Bow Hill exit, about six miles from the motel.
Later, a different car he'd been known to use was spotted in Everett, in the 100 block of 128th Street SE. Police monitored the car until the same man showed up around 1 p.m. to swap cars, said Snohomish County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton.
Police tried to arrest him there, by a freeway off-ramp, but he ran. Ten to 15 minutes later, a police dog tracked him to a housing development in the 12700 block of Third Avenue W, a mile and a half away from where he'd taken off. He ditched a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun while fleeing, Ireton said. That gun was recovered by police.
Last week the FBI had offered a $5,000 reward for a tip leading to his arrest. The bureau noted a woman had been driving the getaway car in at least two of the robberies. Burlington police contacted a woman at the Mark II Motel, but Officer Cates couldn't confirm Tuesday if she'd been arrested.
The man faces charges for at least five robberies.
According to the FBI:
-- He walked into a Bank of America branch 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, then fled with cash at 4:30 p.m.
-- He wore the namesake hat of country band Alabama 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 branch, at 4110 Meridian St., in Bellingham. Again, the bandit passed a note to a teller, then fled around the back of the 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 half a block, but then the trail dissipated. Detectives suspect the robber hopped into a vehicle at that point. No footage of a getaway car has been released, however.
-- In the latest robbery, at a Wells Fargo branch 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. July 30. No photos of a getaway car were recovered.
All of the following agencies and task forces helped to investigate the case: the FBI's Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, the Snohomish County Violent Offender Task Force, the King County Sheriff's Office, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, the Bellingham Police Department, the Mount Vernon Police Department, the Burlington Police Department and Child Protective Services.