Bank Heists to Remember

The fourth bank robbery by the Man Hands Bandit - Thursday in Shoreline - probably earns him some sort of nod in the NW Haul of Fame. He's not too smart, a trait of memorable robbers who tend to call attention to themselves. And clearly MHB does, causing heads to swivel as he dons a woman's wig and saunters up to the counter, asking for money and dashing out. He's gotten some loot, a few moments of fame, and an AKA the FBI borrowed from Seinfeld. Next stop, showy courtroom trial.

In the field of bank robbery, single person, he becomes part of a special regional bank-job lore which includes, in the bank robbery-team category, the biggest U.S. bank heist ever. Exactly $4,461,481 was taken from Lakewood's then-Seafirst bank in 1997, a job pulled off by Billy Kirkpatrick and Ray Bowman, two Midwesterners who had already taken $3.5 million from almost 30 US banks. The Lakewood haul was so heavy, it was said, that their getaway car scraped bottom leaving the parking lot. They were later caught due to a series of screwups, such as when Kirkpatrick was stopped for speeding by a Nebraska state trooper who found $1.8 million in Billy's car trunk.

Among other notables who helped make Seattle a rival to LA as America's holdup capital were the Hollywood Bandit, handsome and flashy William Scurlock, who took $1 million from a Lake City bank in 1996, then killed himself after being cornered by the cops, and David Hensel, who scored $1 million in six early 90s holdups, taking the time during one of them to answer a phone and correctly give's the bank's operating hours. Johnny Williams Jr., known as The Shootist because he liked to fire bullets into bank ceilings, committed the longest string of bank robberies ever, going from Texas in 1986 to Washington in 1994 before he was arrested in a Bothell motel.

In comparison, Man Hands probably qualifies as a Haul underachiever, much like Anthony Battiste, a one-man crime wave who knocked over 22 Seattle-area banks in the early 90s but netted only $50,000. In that same fold is the 1963 Seattle bank robber who made off with $3,800 in a cab and tipped the driver only 15 cents - who then tipped the police (the robber turned out to be an ex-FBI agent). Included as well is the Seattle robber who wrote his holdup note on the back of his deposit slip - containing his name and address.

And speaking of notes, back in 1961, in what was something of a presage to a scene in the later Woody Allen movie "Take the Money and Run," a teller at the old Pacific First Federal Savings on Third Avenue became confused over a note handed her by a robber. (In the 1969 Allen movie, the teller asks "What does this mean: 'I have a gub?'" and an argument ensues). The Seattle teller asked others what the note said, and as they gathered about and debated, the cops arrived.

But it could have been worse. A year later, at another Third Avenue bank, a robber placed a $5 bill on the counter, asked for change, then pulled out a toy pistol and demanded money. The teller stalled, and the nervous robber grabbed at the change, getting $2 of it, then ran out. Swiftly arrested, and $3 lighter, he became the only known Seattle bank robber to be robbed by a bank.

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