Soldier of misfortune
Robbing a South Tacoma bank with his fellow Army Rangers was a crazy notion, and he has the mental illness to prove
Soldier of misfortune
Robbing a South Tacoma bank with his fellow Army Rangers was a crazy notion, and he has the mental illness to prove it, Luke Sommer says. But that newly minted explanation isn't likely to save the former soldier from going to prison this afternoon for a $50,000 heist that he and other Rangers, prosecutors now say, rehearsed at a mock bank on a hill at Fort Lewis.
Additionally, they say, the team brought along "staggering" firepower that included an IED (improvised exploding device) like those used in Iraq, girding for a potential "blood bath on the streets of Tacoma." Sommer was "ready to slaughter" civilians and cops, prosecutors maintain, and kept bank tellers and customers in fear by training the red beam of his pistol's laser sight on them.
He pled guilty this summer and is expected to get a 24-year term today in Tacoma's U.S. District Court. Despite their military precision, masked faces and speedy getaway, the Rangers' August 2006 takedown of a Bank of America branch was quickly solved by the FBI. The gang, in body armor and brandishing automatic weapons, piled almost clown-like into a silver Audi for their escape, drawing the attention of a passerby who got the license number.
Sommer served in Iraq and Afghanistan and earlier told SW he intended to get caught so he could go to trial and expose war crimes and other military secrets. Prosecutors call that "a ridiculous lie" and say the robbery was Sommer's attempt at financing an organized crime family in Canada. (Captured text messages indicate he wanted to take over the crack cocaine business in B.C., where he was raised).
The ex-Ranger still sees himself as an outlaw hero, prosecutors say. But in a court statement, Sommer's attorney, Steve Krupa, says Sommer "theorizes that he was suffering from a delusional thought process as a result of his bi-polar mental illness and combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder." He's now taking medication, accepts responsibility for his actions, and "sincerely regrets the dishonor he has brought on himself, his family [and] his regiment of the United States Army."
His bank combat team included two civilians - Canadian friends of Sommer - and two fellow Rangers, Chad Palmer, 22, and Alex Blum, 20; all await sentencing. The three Rangers, prosecutors say, rehearsed the robbery atop a knoll near their Fort Lewis barracks, laying out sandbags to represent the bank's floor plans.
Sommer's "impact on the world can be summed up as follows," says assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion: "He robbed a bank and terrified many innocent and helpless people. In the process, he wrecked his future and the lives of the people he called his friends and comrades." Without change, "his future is as bleak as his present."