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Jackson Hole, Wyo.-Most bank robberies end like Patrick Stigen’s.
The 47-year-old was caught a mile from the Wells Fargo he robbed on Center Street at 11 a.m. He pulled the job at 10:30 a.m. He still had most of the $1,400 he got from a teller’s drawer. He had stopped only to buy a pair of shoes that he never got to wear.
Stigen was the last man to rob a bank in Jackson until Dec. 31, 2012. He was sentenced April 2010. He’s still in prison on a three-to 10-stretch. Stigen told authorities later that he had no clue what he was doing. Most don’t. He had reached a point of in life of absolute defeat. He acted on desperate impulse and got off lucky.
A bank is robbed somewhere in the U.S. every two hours, according to FBI data for 2011, 5,014 robberies in all. A total of $38.3 million was stolen, averaging about $7,537 per take but the figures are skewed by a few successful big money heists, usually involving armored carriers or money in transit. Most robbers never get past the teller, and that drawer is ‘cashed out’ often to ensure each window has no more than a few thousand or so at any given time.
Was Charlie the tuna a whale?
The man who robbed U.S. Bank on Powderhorn Lane may have been a pro; at least he came off as one. A bank insider who wished to remain anonymous said the suspect, known only as “Charlie,” was calm, cool, and smart. He immediately apologized to the teller he approached about wearing sunglasses indoors, claiming he had an extreme sensitivity to light. He asked to see the branch manager.
Most hoodlums who knock off a bank pull pantyhose over their head and start swinging around a Glock. Attract attention and someone is going to press an alarm. Some ‘vaulters,’ as their known for their style of jumping the counter and demanding money from all the drawers or the vault, don’t care about security. These smash-and-grab jobs are more prone to go wrong, turning into hostage situations or ending up with someone hurt or killed. Injuries were reported in only 64 bank robberies in 2011; 13 total fatalities occurred in 11 bank jobs – 10 times it was the perp who was shot dead.
The smart robbers are the so-called ‘note passers.’ Banks consider them fairly non-threatening. They don’t show a weapon and don’t usually have one, though they may claim that banana in their pocket is an Uzi. Bank protocol is to give them what they want – the loot is FDIC insured and usually only a few thousand. Chances are if the teller remembers, the robber will walk off with an exploding dye pack or bait money that is marked and easily traceable.
Add today’s high-def surveillance cameras, facial-recognition software, and FBI-linked databases, and it’s unlikely a suspect will get far. Money is recovered in one out of five cases.
“Call me Charlie,” the U.S. Bank robber told the branch manager once inside his office. Days earlier, Charlie had gotten this far with at least one other bank in Jackson – Wells Fargo. For some reason, he backed out on robbing them. Something didn’t smell right about it.
But at U.S. Bank, Charlie liked what he saw. He told the manager he was connected to the Mexican drug cartel and a few of his boys were outside with machine guns. He said the bank was also wired with explosives. Any false move and he would blow the place. He also threatened to kill the manager and his family.
I feel like I’m going to pass out, the manager told Charlie.
“No, you won’t,” the robber said calmly. “You’ll be fine. You’re doing fine. Just relax, breathe deeply. You can do this.”
Charlie told the manager to round up all the cash in the bank – the tellers’ stations, vault, wherever there was cash.
The manager listened carefully while doubled over at his desk, fumbling for the button to the silent alarm. He’d never had to use it before. Charlie caught him. “You don’t wanna do that. I know what you’re thinking, and you don’t want to do that.”
The manager brought Charlie $140,000 in cash. Still no one in the bank knew anything was wrong. At some point, Charlie removed his black leather gloves. He is seen in bank photos wearing them when he came in but holding them on the way out. Police dusted for prints. It is not known whether they come up with anything. A common trick for many intelligent robbers is to tape each fingertip with Scotch tape.
Charlie asked the manager to walk him out to his vehicle. When the manager returned, he turned wearily to a teller and told her to hit the alarm. We’ve just been robbed, he said.
It is not known who identified Charlie’s accent as “South African.” There is no officially-recognized standard of speech for the region. Many get the impression of a South African dialect from movies like “Invictus.” Likely, Charlie affected some sort of English/Afrikaan manner of speaking to throw off investigators.
“He mentioned you could call him ‘Charlie,’ which of course means his name probably isn’t Charlie,” Lt. Cole Nethercott said. “The accent was described as South African. That, to me, could mean English or Australian … assuming that wasn’t a put-on.”
Nethercott said the man’s physical description as well as the use of the possible pseudonym ‘Charlie’ and the accent, fake or not, was all handed over to federal agents and plugged into a nationwide database. When asked how long the man was in the bank and how much he got away with, Nethercott was less revealing.
“He was in there longer than a few minutes let’s say,” Nethercott admitted. “We attempted to collect fingerprints. The bank employees are well-trained and I don’t think they damaged any of the evidence in there after the he left. We are concentrating really on trying to find that vehicle. It could be still in the area, maybe parked in a townhouse garage. There are other certain details we don’t want him to know we know. We are holding these close to the vest.”
Nethercott said local authorities have access to a few different software programs that may be able to enhance photographs of the Toyota truck suspected as the getaway vehicle in the heist. As in Hollywood movies, attempts have been made to blow up the image of the front license plate for example, without getting the pixilation that makes the image unreadable. No luck with that so far.
So you wanna rob a bank?
Bank robbery is considered by most to be a ‘loser crime.’ The pay is low and the odds of getting caught are high. Worst of all, punishment is harsher than most crimes. Robbing a bank under FDIC protection automatically puts the offense under federal prosecution. First-time offenders get three, four, five years (up to 10), usually, often in maximum security prisons reserved for hardened thugs. Use a gun and it’s worse. A single count of armed bank robbery carries a minimum of seven years in prison, and can bring up to a 25-year sentence.
Your odds of getting into the bank vault aren’t too good, either. About five percent of bank robbers gain access to the Holy Grail of lending institutions. Those are usually takeover jobs that don’t end well. You can increase your take up to $14,000 on average by using accomplices. Of course, hiring help to watch the lobby, guard the door, and drive the getaway car means you’ll have to split the pot a bit thinner.
If you’re one of the few who are successful the first time out; quit while you’re ahead. Cops eventually solve 60 to 75 percent of all bank robberies in any given year. Statistics show most every serial bank robber is caught by his fourth job.
Four banks were robbed in the state of Wyoming in 2011. Until Charlie cleaned out the U.S. Bank in Jackson, the highest profile robbery in Wyoming this year occurred back in June. Joshua Beckstead, 32, began a four-state crime spree in May after breaking out of an Ogden jail for passing bad checks. He knocked off banks in Ogden, Utah (May 15); Maysville, Okla., (June 9); Cheyenne (June 15), Cody (June 19); and Columbus, Mont., on June 26 before he was caught in Bismarck, So. Dak., on the Fourth of July. He pleaded guilty to five felony counts of bank robbery and will be sentenced Feb. 27.
Two other Wyoming men never got as far as Beckstead. Tracy Black, 52, and Drew Steier, 20, were arrested an hour after they allegedly tried to rob a Farmers State Bank in western Nebraska back in August. Bank workers there said a man wearing a ski mask and wielding a handgun entered the bank just before 12:45 p.m. and demanded money. When told all the money was locked in the vault he left with nothing and drove away.
Before Charlie and Stigen, Jackson’s last bank robber was David James. James pinched $8,301 from Bank of Jackson Hole in 1994. He told the teller he had two bombs and a gun and would blow up the entire block if he didn’t get what he wanted. He was caught soon after trying to pass a fifty dollar bill to a cabbie for a $16 fare.
In high-risk inner-cities where banks are rolled more often, some institutions are fighting back. Bank of America, for instance, trains many of its employees on self-defense tactics and utilizes more trained and armed security officers than any other U.S. bank. It has installed bullet-resistant ‘bandit barriers,’ mantraps with weapons detection capabilities, and high-tech digital surveillance systems that email photos to local police DURING a robbery.
So you wanna be a hero?
Any bank manager will tell you the same thing: Don’t try to be a hero. Just hand over the money and get the robber out the door as quick as possible. Bank owners don’t sweat the money, only the emotional toll on their employees. Cops say the same thing. If you want to be useful, stay calm and be observant.
Look for little details you can tell the police later. What was the suspect wearing? More importantly, did he have on layers that could later be removed? What color was the shirt under that jacket or hoodie? Get the basics on physical characteristics but don’t forget to look closer. Joe Friday always asked witnesses whether they remembered any visible tattoos or scars. These unique identifiers can’t be easily shucked after a holdup and they help differentiate the suspect from similar-looking people.
Was there a weapon? Did you see it? An automobile description is OK, but it’s likely the car was stolen. The direction the robber left in can be very valuable. Time is of the essence in the minutes after a crime. Before the dragnet gets too large in scope, it’s helpful for authorities to know which way they went.
Remember, while you are studying the bank robber he probably will become aware of what you are doing.
Don’t stare and don’t attract attention to yourself. Tellers: Never treat a holdup note as a joke or a prank. That’s just asking the robber to prove it, and he might. Some bank managers advise their employees to pretend to faint in order to thwart a robbery. Don’t. It will attract attention: exactly what the criminal doesn’t want. Do only what the robber tells you to do.
Don’t help more than you have to. Don’t offer any information like, “Do you want the cash in my second drawer?” Wait until the robber has left the building before announcing the incident. None of that, “Grab him, he just robbed us,” kind of thing as he’s walking past some customers. You’re just going to get innocent people hurt.
Don’t leave the building. Don’t chase the robber. Let the cops chase the robber. And don’t touch a thing. Remind others in the building not to mess with anything the robber may have touched and don’t go near the area he was in.
In the minutes after a hold up, try to remember, write down details and timeline so you will have a clear statement to offer investigators. Try to stick to the facts when giving your testimony. Multiple eye-witness accounts will likely result in multiple stories that differ slightly from one another. That’s OK, detectives are well-versed in figuring out the real story.
He was in the bank for a long time by robbery standards. 140k isn’t chump change. I would have shot the motherfucker if he asked for my wallet. One thing for sure, local cops won’t be directly involved in his capture or figure out who did it. These guys went on a wild goose chase after that kid shot himself and only figured that case out ’cause the kid was dumber than cow shit.
Bomb, my ass
Yeah, yeah, keep talking, bomb-ass. Now that you’ve had time to think about it, you’ve got it all figured how you’d Rambo your way out of that situation. Two years ago today (01/08) so did no less than eight individuals who were in that Tucson super market plaza when Gabby Giffords was shot. They were armed with concealed pistols and ready for instant justice, “just in case”. All of them hit the dirt when the shots started and NOT ONE of them drew their weapon. It wasn’t until he stopped to reload that Laughner was tackled by a retired Marine colonel, and hit over the head with a folding chair that he was subdued. Things like this happen fast and you have to be trained and ‘willing’ if you’re going to be effective with a weapon. So much for “Here’s what I woulda done!” And you know nothing about police procedure.
Hey dipshit A2: I was talking about the guy asking me for MY money not what I’d do as a bank employee. Could care less if he walked away with every safe deposit box and the vault. Bank employees don’t get paid to be a hero. I would have no problem pulling my gun. Not everyone sits out military duty and comments on stuff and people they know nothing about.
Bomb, my ass
There wasn’t an active shooter, or any weapon seen, at the USB job. What happened in Tucson & here are miles apart. And neither case has anything to do with the usefulness of CC laws or the people who CC.
Just goes to show how a little planning can go a long way.
The point is, people, no one knows until they’re in a given situation like Tucson, the local bank robbery, or bomb’s scenario, how they will react. Studies have been done. Ask any cop how sometimes their training isn’t foolproof in reaction, let alone an average citizen. Keep re-reading your last sentence, bomb-ass and apply it.
I’m rooting for him! US Bank sucks.
maybe we wait till he bites somebodies finger?
the British kid video. Ha!