IN­MATE COULD BE THE ‘AK-47 BAN­DIT’

Au­thor­i­ties be­lieve a man held in Ne­braska is be­hind a string of holdups in five states, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Richard Win­ton and Matt Hamil­ton

From jail in Ne­braska, Richard Gather­cole asked his mom: “Did you get all the guns out, too?”

The re­quest caught the at­ten­tion of fed­eral agents on the trail of one of the coun­try’s most sought-af­ter bank rob­bers, the “AK-47 Ban­dit,” who is sus­pected of shoot­ing and se­ri­ously wound­ing a Chino po­lice of­fi­cer and car­ry­ing out a string of heists in Cal­i­for­nia, Wash­ing­ton, Iowa, Idaho and Ne­braska.

Fed­eral agents and po­lice from Chino raided Gather­cole’s Mon­tana home and found a trove of home­made bombs, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties and court doc­u­ments filed Mon­day.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve Gather­cole, 39, is the AK-47 Ban­dit, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment source who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the source was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly. Gather­cole re­mains in cus­tody in Ne­braska and has not been for­mally charged. It’s un­clear whether he was be­ing rep­re­sented by an at­tor­ney.

Gather­cole was ar­rested June 20 in the at­tempted shoot­ing of a Kansas state trooper who was try­ing to stop him be­cause of ob­scured reg­is­tra­tion on the ve­hi­cle along an in­ter­state high­way in Kansas, ac­cord­ing to a search war­rant af­fi­davit sub­mit­ted Satur­day in fed­eral court.

Dur­ing the call with his mother, Gather­cole asked her to re­move the guns “as soon as pos­si­ble” from his home in Roundup, ac­cord­ing to the tran­script in­cluded with the war­rant.

“Um, this is recorded. You know that,” she replied. “Yeah, I know,” he said. The June 22 call led to the search of Gather­cole’s home, which the Mus­selshell County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice said had “nu­mer­ous im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices” that a bomb squad re­moved from the prop­erty.

FBI spokes­woman Laura Eimiller said the search was con­nected to the probe of the bank rob­beries.

“Mul­ti­ple de­part­ments are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether ev­i­dence found dur­ing the search in Mon­tana may be linked to a se­ries of bank rob­beries cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Cal­i­for­nia and other states,” Eimiller said.

Fed­eral agents have been on the hunt for the AK-47 Ban­dit since 2012, when the rob­ber shot a po­lice of­fi­cer while flee­ing the scene of Cal­i­for­nia Bank & Trust in Chino. The of­fi­cer was se­ri­ously wounded but sur­vived.

Over the years, agents have iden­ti­fied some of his trade­marks: a black ski mask; dark body ar­mor; a mesh vest with the word “sher­iff” across the back; and his sig­na­ture weapon, an AK-47 with a drum mag­a­zine, ac­cord­ing to the FBI.

They have linked the rob­ber to nu­mer­ous heists, in­clud­ing ones in Sacra­mento; Va­cav­ille; North Bend, Wash.; and Rexburg, Idaho, FBI of­fi­cials said.

In the af­fi­davit, FBI Spe­cial Agent An­drew R. Ubbe­lo­hde ties Gather­cole to at least two bank rob­beries linked to the AK-47 Ban­dit. The agent said Gather­cole was sus­pected of car­ry­ing out the 2014 rob­bery of First Ne­braska Bank in Ne­braska City. More than $90,000 was stolen, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

The af­fi­davit also al­leges that Gather­cole stole $126,000 from a bank in Iowa, an­other theft linked to the ban­dit. The rob­ber in the 2015 heist of Iowa Heart­land Credit Union brought in a de­vice that he told bank tell­ers was a “pres­sure bomb,” ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers. The rob­ber fled in a black Toy­ota Camry.

On June 19, a Kansas state trooper tried to pull over a black Toy­ota Camry, but the driver re­fused to stop and fired a ri­fle at the of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers. At some point, the driver aban­doned the car.

The driver, later iden­ti­fied by au­thor­i­ties as Gather­cole, eluded cap­ture, and is sus­pected of steal­ing a Ford pickup at gun­point. A Ne­braska sher­iff’s deputy spot­ted the pickup at a Daw­son County gas sta­tion.

He was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of pos­ses­sion of stolen prop­erty and stolen firearms, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

As­so­ci­ated Press

AN IM­AGE from sur­veil­lance video shows a se­rial bank rob­ber dubbed the “AK-47 Ban­dit.” Au­thor­i­ties be­lieve he is Richard Gather­cole, 39, of Mon­tana.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.