Motive for crime spree unclear
Shortly before sentencing the man dubbed “the beefcake bandit” to more than seven years in prison, the judge presiding in U. S. District Court said he could not recall a defendant like David Byers before.
“Unlike many of the defendants who come before me — or any actually — you, by all accounts, had a good childhood,” Judge
Michael Shea told Byers before delivering the penalty for a total of five robberies — three of them in Greenwich — and a crosscountry police pursuit that endangered the lives of motorists and law- enforcement in three states.
The 35- year- old erstwhile model also presented a conundrum to his defense lawyer. “Mr. Byers presents a real mystery,” attorney Moira Buckley said at his sentencing. “It’s sort of confusing. There is a sense of scratching your head — how did this happen?”
Byers’ descent into crime, lawyers said, was at odds with the early advantages he enjoyed — a stable family, a decent education and good looks that landed him work as a part- time model.
He grew up in a workingclass household with two long- married parents in southern California, according to court papers, and “dinner was always on the table” when he came home from school. It was not the usual resume for robbery and other felony- level crimes.
The admitted bank robber went to private schools, and while he was not a success academically, he learned a trade in his father’s auto repair shop and completed his education in auto mechanics in community college. His father now works as a detention officer for a county sheriff’s department in Arizona. ( He did not return calls seeking comment this week.) Byers’ two sisters, one of whom served in the Coast Guard, currently work as nurses.
His crime spree was strange in other ways, as well. Observers were puzzled by how Byers combined vulnerability and menace, bravado and fool- ishness, stealth and sentimentality, in one heavily tattooed, muscled physique.
Though he came from a solid family, taking part in Boy Scout activities, Byers never settled down on a conventional path. After high school, he went to live in San Diego, and things started going wrong after he left his parents’ home. “He just couldn’t get it together after high school,” his lawyer said.
Byers began living out of his car, doing odd jobs in bartending or fitness instruction in his early adulthood. He also began picking up a criminal record. Besides two alcohol- related driving offenses in California, Byers was also getting arrested for property crimes. In Los Angeles, he was convicted in 2002 for burglary, and in 2003, grand theft. Byers did a few months behind bars in California.
There was something else about Byers that didn’t add up. Born with chiseled features and piercing blue eyes, he did some part- time modeling, showing off his sculpted body on social media and the covers of romance novels. His modeling career was definitely not the job description most felons acquire.
But Byers made no money from his steamy poses and sultry gazes for the camera. A scheme with two other partners to open a gym in southern California, his dream, went bust in 2016, and Byers was again broke and homeless.
In the spring of 2017, Byers came to the East Coast. He wanted to rekindle a romantic attachment with a woman he had previously dated, who was then living on Mason Street in central Greenwich. He was bartending at the Standard Hotel in New York City, then working as a stocking clerk for Whole Foods on Long Island. He was also living out of his car, accompanied by a white pit bull puppy named Dante. The grocery store let him keep the dog in his car while he worked, court papers stated.
Then Byers went in for more dangerous pursuits, and for reasons that have been difficult for Byers or anyone else to explain, he started pulling robberies. According to a confession he made to an FBI agent in San Diego shortly after his arrest last May, he was increasingly desperate for money, “and just went for it,” seemingly with no advance preparation.
After two robberies on Long Island, Byers came to Connecticut in April 2017, checking into the Hotel Zero Degrees in Stamford — and paying cash for his room. He sent pictures of cash that he had stolen to the Greenwich woman he was pursuing. He also began looking to get more cash — holding up a Citgo station in Cos Cob and then a Chase bank — twice — in Riverside.
His crime spree was unusual and contradictory. Byers often blundered, using his real name on several occasions to order services or apply for jobs, even after it was likely that police were onto him.
But Byers could crafty in other ways. He stole license plates to put on the vehicle he was driving, evidently trying to avoid detection. The robber told investigators that he studied traffic patterns around the venues he was about to rob, and determined “what’s easy in, what’s easy out.” He timed the holdups when few people were around. He could be cool- headed, as well, such as when he pretended to be a valet to steal a car from a restaurant in Port Chester, N. Y., shortly after Greenwich police chased him all over town on foot.
Byers was certainly bold — he ran across Interstate 95 traffic in Greenwich, and eluded capture three times using high- speed getaways and driving recklessly. Arizona state troopers clocked him doing 91 mph when they tried to capture him near Yuma City. His extensive gym training appears to have given him the ability to run hard from police pursuers on several occasions.
There was boldness mixed with recklessness, in other ways, such as having a beer at a hotel bar just a block away from the Chase bank he had robbed twice that week. It was in the J House parking lot that Byers eluded Greenwich police and began the crosscountry manhunt that ended last May in the parking lot of a convenience store in San Diego.
Byers also showed a sentimental side. Even as he was on the run from police, he called a local tow- truck operator, who had transported his car earlier that day for a repair job, and asked him to look after his dog Dante.
And while he used cars in a highly dangerous and reckless manner, Byers never used a real weapon in his robberies and said “please” to bank tellers when demanding money. He painted a toy gun black for his last bank job, and used a television remote control to simulate a pistol grip for the other robberies. He fought back tears during his sentencing in Hartford.
Byers appears a mystery even to himself, as he admitted to the judge when he was allowed to make a statement this week in U. S. District Court. Buckley, his defense lawyer, said there appeared to be an undiagnosed mental health issue, specifically bipolar disorder, and alcohol abuse, that had not been treated properly. Byers said he agreed, and he told the judge he felt there was much about his life and his behavior that he did not understand.
Standing before Judge Shea, struggling to make himself heard as his voice quavered with strong emotion, he said, “I’m trying to understand what the doctor said. It’s a lot to take in.”
Byers will have the next seven years to take it in.
David Byers, who became known as the ‘ beefcake bandit’ after a series of robberies, including three in Greenwich, in a modeling publicity photo.
A photo of David Byers taken by Michael Stokes to publicize Byers’ modeling career.
A television news image of David Byers after his arrest in San Diego in May 2017.