FBI investigates Gilman bank robbery

February 24, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah bank robbery suspect

Issaquah bank robbery suspect

A man robbed the Gilman Boulevard Washington Mutual bank branch Feb. 17, brandishing a handgun before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Authorities said the suspect entered the bank just after 3 p.m. and approached a teller. The suspect then presented a note demanding money and flashed a handgun. The teller handed money to the suspect, who then left the bank. Authorities said he was last seen climbing into a red Ford Mustang.  Robbie Burrows, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle field office, said customers in the bank during the incident were unaware the robbery had occurred. 

Issaquah police were alerted by an alarm at the bank, 1195 N.W. Gilman Blvd., at 3:11 p.m. Officers arrived at WaMu three minutes later, but were unable to locate the suspect.

Authorities described the man as Hispanic or Southeast Asian, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build and buck teeth. He fled in a red 1998 Ford Mustang with nonfactory rims.

Investigators said the same man robbed a US Bank branch in Kirkland, 13233 100th Ave. N.E., on Feb. 13.

Grainy surveillance images released by the FBI show the man entering each bank. The man can be seen holding a handgun in the image captured during the Kirkland robbery.

Because a bank robbery is a federal crime, the FBI is acting as the lead investigator on the case.

The number of bank robberies across Washington decreased throughout 2007 and 2008, according to FBI statistics. Statewide, 153 bank robberies occurred last year, including one at a WaMu branch inside the Issaquah Fred Meyer grocery store on East Lake Sammamish Parkway. By contrast, during the decade leading up to 2006, about 300 bank robberies occurred in Washington each year.

“We have seen an increase in bank robberies so far this year, with about 35 statewide compared to 21 at the same time last year,” Burrows wrote in an e-mail. “We had a 20-year low in the number of bank robberies in 2008 and I have no reason to believe that the trend this year will continue.”  

She said the recent increase in bank robberies was unrelated to the economic downturn and rising unemployment.

“The bank robberies have nothing to do with the economy,” Burrows wrote. “Almost all bank robbers in our state are drug addicts who rob banks to get money to buy drugs. Many of them are previously convicted robbers or have been recently released from jail.”

The day after the recent WaMu robbery, Issaquah police contacted employees at the nearby Bank of America branch, 1135 N.W. Gilman Blvd., to discuss the incident and provide the bank with ideas to improve security. Officers also talked to employees of First Mutual Bank, 855 Rainier Blvd. N., following the robbery.

“We try to make people as aware as possible,” Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said.

He said bank customers caught in a robbery should leave if it’s safe to do and call 911.

“We’d prefer that they try to be a witness instead of trying to be a hero,” Ayers said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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