By Diana Hefley and Rikki King Herald Writers
STANWOOD — A suspected bank robber was critically injured in Stanwood on Tuesday morning after being shot by a police officer assigned to keep an eye on local banks after a rash of heists.
Gunfire broke out shortly after 10:40 a.m. at the Stanwood KeyBank branch during some kind of confrontation between the suspect and a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy, according to police. The chase spilled across the street into the Haggen grocery store parking lot, where the suspect was shot.
He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The man was headed into surgery Monday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said. No additional details were released about the man’s identity or the nature of his injuries.
The shooting shut down much of the area around the grocery store as police cars responded en masse. Crime-scene tape ringed a number of nearby businesses and parking lots, and people gathered to watch the action.
The deputy who shot the man is a 14-year law enforcement veteran who was working a special patrol in response to increased bank robberies in the Stanwood area, said Everett police officer Aaron Snell, a spokesman for the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, which investigates officer-involved shootings.
Stanwood, a city of about 6,000, contracts with the sheriff’s office for police services.
Similar patrols have been put in place elsewhere in the county in because multiple serial bank robbers are believed to be targeting the region.
Police couldn’t say Tuesday whether the suspect in Stanwood had been connected to any other bank robberies.
The deputy who shot the man was put on paid administrative leave during the investigation, per standard procedure, Snell said. Aside from the suspect, nobody else was reported injured.
Police believe the suspect was armed, but they still were sorting out whether the man fired at the deputy, Snell said.
“It’s unknown who fired first or how many shots were fired,” he said at the scene Tuesday.
A handful of paper cups littered the bank’s parking lot, marking evidence that needed to be photographed and collected. The bank’s windows also showed what appeared to be damage from bullets.
Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots in the area.
The gunfire frightened people working and shopping at nearby businesses.
Michele Hubert, at Village Eye Care, said she and co-workers rushed a patient inside and locked the door.
“We were afraid the robber might run in this direction,” Hubert said.
Billy Jensen, 20, said he was walking through the Haggen parking lot to the store’s entrance when he heard a store employee yell to him “Get down!”
He heard multiple gunshots and saw a man drop to the ground.
Ty Sundholm, 43, of Stanwood saw some of the commotion.
“(Police) were running across the parking lot with their guns,” he said.
Police learned of the robbery through a 911 call from the bank, Snell said.
Scanner chatter indicated that the deputy saw the robber inside the bank and reported that to dispatchers. Moments later, he broadcast that the robber had shot at him, and that he was chasing the man east toward the grocery store.
A bicycle was seen parked just outside the bank entrance on Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately known whether the bicycle was associated with the suspect, Snell said.
Earlier this month, the Smokey Point Branch of KeyBank was robbed by an armed man who rode in on a bicycle. The man has been dubbed the “Tour de Banks Robber” by law enforcement for his choice of wheels.
Video surveillance in that robbery caught a man arriving in the area on a bicycle about 30 minutes earlier. Surveillance footage showed the suspect fleeing the scene northbound on the bicycle immediately after the heist.
The suspect in the Sept. 8 robbery was described as wearing a light blue or gray zip-up sweatshirt with the hood up and a black ski mask, scarf or cloth over his face with holes for eyes. He was wearing black gloves and carried a black backpack.
The suspect in Tuesday’s shooting also was reported to be wearing something dark over his face.
The Tour de Banks Robber is believed to be responsible for holdups in Monroe and Mill Creek, among others.
Stanwood has been the scene of multiple bank robberies in recent months.
In August, a $10,000 reward was offered for the arrest and conviction of a man believed to have robbed the same Wells Fargo Bank branch three times in a little more than a year and a half. The robberies occurred in August, April and January 2011.
The Whidbey Island Bank branch in Stanwood also was hit May 24 by somebody detectives have started calling the “Duct Tape Bandit.” He gets his name from his attempt to disguise his identity by slapping a piece of duct tape over his nose. That robber is also suspected in holdups in Edmonds and King County.
Tuesday’s gunfire was the second officer-involved shooting in north county this month.
Deputies shot and killed an Arlington-area man along Jim Creek Road on Sept. 2 after he allegedly shot at them and his neighbors.
The death of Robert Endrizzi, 60, also is being investigated by the SMART team.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.