‘Phony Pony Bandit’ admits to armed robberies

EVERETT — An Anacortes businessman faces up to 20 years in prison after admitting Friday that he is the “Phony Pony Bandit” and responsible for a series of bank heists, including one in Stanwood that ended in gunfire.

Todd Kirkpatrick, armed with a handgun, spent the summer of 2012 ripping off banks while wearing an elaborate disguise complete with a bad wig pulled back into a ponytail. Kirkpatrick, 55, hit banks in three different counties within weeks of each other. He pocketed thousands of dollars.

His hold-up days came to a violent end Sept. 25, 2012, in the parking lot of a Stanwood strip mall. A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy happened upon Kirkpatrick in the middle of a robbery at KeyBank. The Anacortes man fled the bank and was shot multiple times as he ran through a busy grocery store parking lot.

Kirkpatrick pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault. He faces up to 12 years in prison, plus another eight years for using a handgun under the state’s “hard time for armed crime” law.

He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Kirkpatrick had no prior felony convictions. He had a few run-ins with the law, mainly for drunken driving.

Records show that Kirkpatrick had been an aspiring developer in Anacortes, buying up waterfront property and making plans to build a cul-de-sac of homes overlooking Burrows Bay. The collapse of the housing boom caused financial troubles for Kirkpatrick. He and his wife had either sold or lost all of those properties by 2011, according to property records.

In recent years, he was 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 2012. In July 2012, about $2,000 was taken under court order from his bank account.

That same month, a bank robber, whom the FBI dubbed the “Phony Pony Bandit,” hit the Banner Bank in Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood. He robbed the bank again the next month. The armed robber made off with more than $7,000.

The “Phony Pony Bandit” also tried to rob the Washington Federal bank in La Conner in August 2012. Employees there were able to remotely lock the bank door before the robber entered. Two days later, the “Phony Pony Bandit” robbed $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.

Then in September 2012 a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy was patrolling the Stanwood business park in response to a rash of bank robberies.

Kirkpatrick was already in the KeyBank. He was armed with a small handgun when he demanded money from two tellers inside the Stanwood bank. At some point he spotted the deputy’s patrol car parked outside the bank. He cursed and walked over to the manager’s desk.

The deputy walked toward the bank and confronted Kirkpatrick as he was stepping outside. A chaotic chase ensued with the deputy advising an emergency dispatcher that an armed suspect was running toward the Haggen grocery store across the street.

The deputy ran after Kirkpatrick, ordering him to the ground. The suspect pointed his gun at the deputy, who fired his weapon in response. Kirkpatrick was hit multiple times. He booked into the Snohomish County Jail after spending about a month in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds.

At the scene, investigators seized a long black wig, sunglasses, a white T-shirt, black sweatshirt, coat and blue jeans. 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 records.

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.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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