By Caleb Hutton The Bellingham Herald
SEATTLE — A 40-year-old man dubbed the Alabama Band Bandit — an alleged serial bank robber who threatened to shoot tellers in Bellingham, Shoreline and Lynnwood — has a criminal record dating back to 1993, court records show.
Michael Ryan Hardesty, of Woodinville, was arrested Tuesday after allegedly evading police in Skagit and Snohomish counties, according to authorities. He’s being held in the King County Jail on $500,000 bail for investigation of at least five bank robberies in July. His next court hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Officials have not yet decided if Hardesty will be prosecuted at the state or federal level.
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.
In one robbery, the suspect wore a hat bearing the logo of the southern rock band Alabama — hence the moniker Alabama Band Bandit.
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 I-5, according to 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 in the Everett area. 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.
Court records show that over the past two decades, Hardesty has been convicted of crimes in Florida, Michigan, and Island and Whatcom counties in Washington. His rap sheet includes home burglaries, grand theft, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, forgery and delivering methamphetamine.
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.
Before his arrest on Tuesday, Hardesty was 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, bureau spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich said.
Here are the details on the two Lynnwood cases:
On July 7, a man walked into the Bank of America at 1424 164th St. SW, 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.)
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.