By Rikki King and Diana Hefley Herald Writers
STANWOOD — Eight years ago, Todd Kirkpatrick was an aspiring developer in Anacortes. He was buying up waterfront property and seeking city approval to build a cul-de-sac of homes there, overlooking Burrows Bay.
Now, he’s a suspected serial bank robber, laid up in a Seattle trauma center after being shot by police during a Sept. 25 holdup in Stanwood, records show.
Investigators say Kirkpatrick likely is the “Phony Pony Bandit,” a prolific hold-up man wanted in connection with armed bank robberies in three counties since July, according to a search warrant obtained by The Herald.
Meanwhile, financial records from the past few years hint at what may have prompted a businessman to turn to bank robbery.
The search warrant identifies the suspect in the Stanwood bank robbery as Todd Richard Kirkpatrick, 54, of Anacortes. Detectives investigating that heist say Kirkpatrick was wearing a similar disguise as the “Phony Pony Bandit,” including a long, black wig tied in a ponytail. That robber has hit banks in Bellingham, Mount Vernon and La Conner.
Kirkpatrick was shot last week by a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy who had been patrolling the area in response to a rash of bank robberies.
Witnesses reportedly told detectives that the robber entered KeyBank and demanded money from two tellers. He ordered the tellers to remove the paper wrapper from the money stacks. They said the man held a small gun in his left hand. The witnesses said the robber was wearing black sunglasses, latex gloves and had something wrapped around the lower portion of his face.
One teller told police that when the suspect spotted the deputy’s patrol car outside the bank, he cursed and walked over to the manager’s desk.
The deputy was in the area specifically to check on the bank, according to the search warrant. The deputy walked toward the bank and confronted the robber as he walked out of the building, police wrote. The deputy advised a dispatcher that the armed suspect was running toward the Haggen grocery store across the street.
Witnesses reported seeing the robber running outside the bank, through the drive-thru and toward the grocery store. The deputy was chasing after the suspect and yelling for the man to get on the ground. Witnesses reported seeing the deputy fire at the suspect, the search warrant said.
Kirkpatrick was hit multiple times. He was taken by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He remained there Wednesday but has since invoked his rights as a patient to decline to have his condition shared with the media.
The Stanwood case remains under investigation, said Everett police officer Aaron Snell, a spokesman for the Snohomish Multiple Agency Response Team, which examines police shootings here.
Detectives won’t have more to say until after the suspect is booked, Snell said Wednesday. It’s unclear when that will happen.
So far, the search warrant says investigators have seized a long black wig, sunglasses, a white T-shirt, black sweatshirt, coat and blue jeans. They say they found $5,850 wadded up in the pocket of Kirkpatrick’s blood-soaked jeans. They found a police scanner with an earphone clipped to the man’s belt.
They also found a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol near the suspect. There was no magazine or ammunition found. There also was no bullet in the chamber, according to the search. Police still have not said if Kirkpatrick fired at the deputy.
Police also recovered footage from the bank’s security cameras. The video reportedly shows the suspect fleeing the bank and pointing a gun in the direction of the deputy, investigators wrote.
Detectives seized a bicycle parked outside the bank. They also located a Honda Civic parked about 100 yards away. The car’s window was down and the key was in the ignition. Detectives learned that the Honda was registered to one of Kirkpatrick’s relatives. Inside the car, police reportedly found a wallet with Kirkpatrick’s identification. There also was a manual for a police scanner and a guide for radio frequencies, according to the search warrant. Investigators also seized cellphones, ear buds and white latex gloves.
Police later searched Kirkpatrick’s home in Anacortes. They seized a box of latex gloves, a single glove that was stained, a $100 bill and some clothing.
During their investigation, detectives have been comparing notes with police in Skagit and Whatcom counties. The “Phony Pony Bandit” hit the Banner Bank in Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood in July and again in August. The armed robber made off with more than $7,000. The same robber is suspected of trying to hold up the Washington Federal bank in La Conner in August. Employees there were able to remotely lock the bank door before the robber entered. Two days later, the “Phony Pony Bandit” also is suspected of robbing $4,000 from the Skagit State Bank in Mount Vernon.
In a police bulletin, investigators said the suspect was seen riding up to the banks on a bicycle and pedaling away after the robberies. They suspected that the robber had a vehicle waiting close by because after each heist they found the bicycles ditched a short distance away.
Investigators say Kirkpatrick has had limited scrapes with the law and no felony convictions.
In the mid-2000s, Kirkpatrick and his wife bought at least six properties along Marine Crest Place on the west side of Anacortes, according to Skagit County land records.
In 2004, that land was divided into lots, utilities were put in, and at least three homes were built, said Don Measamer, the city building official.
In fall 2006, Kirkpatrick appeared before the Anacortes planning commission and City Council members multiple times to answer questions regarding his plans to build a cul-de-sac of homes there, city records how.
More homes were planned, but then the economy soured, construction slowed and there was no longer any interest in additional building efforts on those lots, Measamer said Wednesday.
By 2011, Kirkpatrick and his wife had either sold or lost all of those properties, according to Skagit County land records.
Kirkpatrick’s financial troubles also escalated.
Since late 2010, he’s been taken to court multiple times over various debts totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Some of those matters had been resolved, but at least one led to the court approving his wages being garnished as of May. In July, about $2,000 was taken under court order from his bank account.
Though Kirkpatrick hadn’t been publicly named a suspect by officials, word has been spreading around Anacortes since the shooting. People there say he comes from a large family with a good reputation in town.
Multiple city officials declined to comment Wednesday.
City Councilman Bill Turner, who also is involved in the home-building industry, said he remembered meeting Kirkpatrick in years past.
Anacortes is a good community, Turner said. He hadn’t heard anything about Kirkpatrick being a suspect and said he wasn’t comfortable commenting on “rumors.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.