• ‘Big Top Bandits' sought in takeover bank robberies

    By: Alison Grande


    SEATTLE, Wash. - Police are investigating a series of five armed takeover-style bank robberies that have occurred in King County since January.

     The robberies happened at banks in South Seattle, Newcastle and Burien.

     Up until June, only one man had entered a bank during the robberies, but police said on July 1, two suspects entered the Newcastle branch of a Bank of America.

     Customer Kelly Johnson talked to a teller about the robbery.  

    “They’re vulnerable and they’re scared,” said Johnson.

    Sue Lassman was in the shopping center parking lot of the Key Bank, across the street from the Bank of America.

    Police say it was robbed by the duo in January.  Lassman heard about the robberies and said,  “it makes me nervous to be up here.”

    Detectives are considering the cases as linked but continue to investigate the actual number of suspects involved.

    See photos of the suspect, vehicle involved here and a video below.

     The robberies occurred at the following locations on the following dates:

    • 1-16-13: Newcastle branch of Key Bank (KCSO)
    • 2-28-13:  Rainier Ave branch of Key Bank (SPD)
    • 5-22-13: Rainer Ave branch of Washington Federal Bank (SPD)
    • 6-8-13: Burien branch of Sterling Savings Bank (KCSO)
    • 7-1-13: Newcastle branch of Bank of America 

    Police said the May 22 robbery at Washington Federal Bank in Seattle resulted in a suspect firing a gunshot inside the bank. Follow this link to read coverage of that robbery from KIRO 7's Amy Clancy.

    The Burien Sterling Savings robbery resulted in a bank teller being struck in the face by the robber.

    Police said handguns have been displayed and pointed in all robberies and the robberies go forward despite several customers and employees being present.

    “We’re really worried somebody might get hurt,” said Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

    “The concern is their violence is increasing. They fired a shot in one of them, struck a teller in another,” West said.

    Detectives released surveillance photos of a robber in three of the robberies,  as well as photos of a car believed to have been used in the Feb. 28 Key Bank robbery -- a blue 1983 – 1987 Mercury Marquis that is very stock in appearance.  

    The robber is described as black,  5 feet 7 inches tall with a medium build. The robber sometimes wears a mask but often forgets to pull it over his face, police said.  

     “Somebody’s going to recognize them, that’s what we want, “ added West.

     But West made it clear they don’t want citizens interfering, “we don’t want anybody trying to be a hero.  If somebody’s in a bank when these individuals rob a bank, the best thing they can do is be a good witness.”

    A reward is  being offered through Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound.  Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and are eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $1,000 if the information leads to an arrest and charges filed against those involved.  To be eligible for the reward, a person must provide the information through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

    Tips can also be called in to the King County Sheriff's Office Communication Center at 206-296-3311 or 911.

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