Monday, October 12, 2009

'River Rat' robber trapped, jailed


A man suspected of being the notorious "River Rat Bandit," who has committed at least 18 armed robberies from Oregon to the Puget Sound, was arrested in Pierce County after he was identified through a fingerprint, police said.

An accomplice also was arrested in Portland, Ore., after he was implicated by the suspected bandit.

The River Rat Bandit is believed to be responsible for at least 18 armed robberies of banks and check-cashing businesses from late July until early October from Portland to Kent, netting an estimated $100,000.

In most of the bank robberies, the robber has displayed a black handgun and demanded cash. In several cases he leaped onto or over the teller counter to reach the money.

Police gave him the "River Rat" name because the robberies have taken place on both sides of the Columbia River. They say he is a 32-year-old Bonney Lake man with ties to the Portland area. His name was not immediately released.

Two of the robberies and one attempted robbery took place in Puyallup.

On Friday, detectives identified a fingerprint from one of the Puyallup robberies and staked out a residence near Bonney Lake that was associated with the suspect.

Surveillance units spotted the suspect at about 7:45 p.m. Friday as he arrived at the residence in a vehicle belonging to his girlfriend.

A Pierce County SWAT team apprehended the suspect on two arrest warrants for three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery as he was about to leave the residence in a vehicle at about 9:15 p.m.

He was later booked into Pierce County Jail.

During questioning by detectives, the suspected bandit implicated a possible accomplice who lives in the Portland area.

On Saturday afternoon, officers followed the suspected accomplice as he drove from Vancouver to Portland. He was arrested without incident near Northeast 138th and Halsey on an arrest warrant for five counts of robbery.

The suspected accomplice is a 35-year-old Portland man and is currently being held in the Multnomah County Jail.

Joining the Puyallup Police Department in the investigation were the FBI, the Auburn police, the Bonney Lake police, the Clark County Sheriff's Department, the Kent police, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, the Portland Police Bureau, the Puyallup tribal police, the Vancouver police, Metro SWAT team and Pierce County SWAT team.

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