Stanwood bank holdup could be tied to other heists

STANWOOD — Detectives have been sharing notes for months on multiple serial bank robbers who’ve been operating in Snohomish County.

They may have a fresh lead on some of those cases now that a man was shot and wounded after a holdup in Stanwood on Tuesday morning.

The man apparently got into a shootout with a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy. The deputy had interrupted a robbery at the Stanwood KeyBank branch while on a special patrol aimed at cracking down on bank heists.

Police around the county Wednesday said it was too early to speculate whether the wounded man was connected to any of their cases, but they certainly weren’t ruling out the possibility.

The man was listed Wednesday in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a hospital spokeswoman said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the suspect had been interviewed by detectives. His name, age and the nature of his injuries were being withheld by police.

Tuesday’s robbery and shooting are being investigated by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, which handles officer-involved shootings.

Few new investigative details were released Wednesday.

“We haven’t been able to put together all the pieces yet, and to comment on the robbery at this point in time would be premature,” said Aaron Snell, an Everett police officer and SMART spokesman.

Gunfire broke out at the bank about 10:40 a.m. during a confrontation between the suspect and the deputy, according to police. The chase spilled across the street into the Haggen grocery store parking lot, where the suspect was shot. Police haven’t confirmed if the suspect opened fire.

The investigation is expected to take some time. The crime scene covered an extensive area and included a large amount of evidence that needs to be processed and catalogued, Snell said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, SMART detectives are in contact with investigators throughout the area, examining recent bank robberies to “see if this might be the same person,” Snell said.

Throughout this year, police have issued a series of bulletins about what they believe are at least three separate serial bank robbers targeting Snohomish County and the surrounding communities.

At least two agencies have confirmed that they’ve been conducting special patrols in hopes of nabbing a culprit.

One has been dubbed the “Tour de Banks Robber” because he uses a bicycle during his getaways. The Tour de Banks Robber is believed to have struck in Arlington and Mill Creek this month, in addition to other holdups in Monroe and King County.

A bicycle was seen parked outside of KeyBank in Stanwood after the shooting, but it wasn’t immediately known if the bike belonged to the suspect, Snell said.

Another man, called the “Duct Tape Bandit,” has been hitting banks with a piece of duct tape over his nose. He’s believed to be responsible for multiple robberies in the region, including one in Stanwood in May and another in Edmonds in June.

Stanwood has been the scene of bank robberies recently as well.

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.

“We have increased proactive patrols of banks in Stanwood over the last few months, and we have also been working directly with the banks on education and security issues as well,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

The Tour de Banks holdup in Monroe prompted police to increase their focus on banks in town, police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

“We have been vigilant about checking our banks and the parking lots during routine patrols for any suspicious activity,” she said.

Arlington Police Chief Nelson Beazley on Wednesday declined to discuss his agency’s case, but wrote in an email that it was “safe to say that every law enforcement agency in the county is very much aware of actions of the bank robbery suspect (or suspects) and are taking appropriate measures for those locations in their respective jurisdictions.”

The FBI has been involved to some degree in many of the recent bank robbery investigations in Snohomish County, including the Tour de Banks cases, said Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the Seattle office.

The FBI often lends assistance to local police and helps them partner and communicate to catch bank robbers, she said.

The bureau is more likely to get involved when robbers are crossing multiple jurisdictional boundaries, brandishing a weapon, or when local police ask for their help.

All bank robberies have the potential for federal prosecution, she said.

The deputy who shot the man in Stanwood on Tuesday is a 14-year law enforcement veteran, according to police. He remains on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure for an officer who has used potentially lethal force.

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