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HR bank robber at large

Police seek public’s help in locating suspect

HOOD RIVER city and county law officers join in manhunt for suspecting in robbery of the town’s U.S. Bank.
Adam Lapierre photo/Hood River News

HOOD RIVER city and county law officers join in manhunt for suspecting in robbery of the town’s U.S. Bank. Adam Lapierre photo/Hood River News

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Hood River police are seeking information in connection with a bank robbery attempt at US Bank there. The suspect was captured on a security camera. Contributed photo

— A suspect wanted in connection with an armed robbery at the U.S. Bank Hood River branch Thursday morning was still at large as of Friday morning.

Local law enforcement agencies reported that a man entered the bank’s Hood River branch, located at 1309 12th St., at 10:09 a.m. The individual, who was caught on the bank’s security camera presented a note to the teller and brandished a small, black handgun. The suspect then left with an undisclosed amount of money.

The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office described the suspect as a white male in his late 30s, approximately 5-foot, 11-inches in height, slender build, with long brown hair and facial hair, wearing a blue long-sleeve T-shirt, and tan pants. An image from the bank security camera shows the man wearing a baseball cap.

U.S. Bank Hood River Branch Manager Matt Stoneberg reported Thursday afternoon that “everybody is safe at the bank and unharmed,” but didn’t provide any more information because the investigation is ongoing. According to News archives, the last robbery at U.S. Bank occurred April 1, 2003, and the last bank robbery in Hood River was June 2, 2006, at Bank of America downtown.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials collected forensic evidence and spoke to witnesses Thursday afternoon. Hood River Police is in charge of the investigation.

“We had three sightings that were probably bona fide, all in the same area (on or near Indian Creek trail) and that’s where we’re concentrating the search,” said Sgt. Stan Baker.

Police, county deputies and state troopers fanned out through the Heights and the rugged Indian Creek ravine, three blocks from the bank. Searchers included Skamania County Deputy Russ Hastings and the search dog, Arie. State police used a helicopter to scan the ground from above.

The ravine and its woods are “the scene of a lot of activity, and we do a lot of search patrols, a lot of complaints,” on a weekly basis, Baker said, referring to transients’ encampments. “That’s where we’re concentrating most of our time. Because of the foliage it makes it tough, makes it easier to hide,” Baker said.

“Thankfully, we had all the manpower we did today,” he said.

While law enforcement searched for the robbery suspect, schools and local businesses went into lockdown for the first time since an abduction alert in Odell in 2009. Administrators at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, located just four blocks north of where the robbery occurred, made sure there was “appropriately placed security at all entrances,” according to hospital spokesperson Susan Frost.

The lockdowns, which were in place at both public and private schools in the Hood River area, lasted from 10:40 a.m. until about 1:15 p.m.

HRMS principal Brent Emmons, a 10-year school employee, said it was the first lockdown he had experienced, but his staff and students benefited Thursday from having drilled for such an event. By 2 p.m. the active search had been called off and the investigation moved indoors to the police station.

Thursday as law enforcement gathered in the shade at US Bank, Baker said, “We’re now doing an evidence search, which is why we called the radio station, and said, ‘our guys are out, if you see people peeking in your backdoor, this is why. We don’t want to get guys hurt.”

Melodie Davis, a veterinary technician who lives in Hood River, said she was walking by the Union Street substation near the Indian Creek Trail Thursday morning when she passed a man fitting the suspect’s description. She said the man, whom she described as having, “long, dark hair,” and wearing “a navy blue hoodie,” didn’t return her “Good morning.”

In friendly Hood River, the act of snubbing a greeting isn’t exactly commonplace and Davis took note.

“I thought, ‘That was rude,’ but that was pretty much it,” she recalled.

Davis also reported the man wouldn’t look at her, but “wasn’t rushing,” as he passed her. She said the suspect walked north in the direction of Wilson Street.

Later, police showed her a picture of the suspect. Davis said it was “definitely” the man she saw earlier. Davis, who up until two months ago worked as a teller at the U.S. Bank Hood River branch, said she was surprised when she learned the man she saw earlier had just held up her former place of employment.

“He didn’t strike me as someone who just robbed a bank,” she said.

Miguel Gomez, who works at Murray’s Furniture in Hood River, said he went to U.S. Bank this morning to get a cashier’s check when an employee quietly told him the news.

“I was just getting a cashier’s check and a bank representative whispered in my ear, ‘We’ve just been robbed,’” he recalled.

Gomez said he and the other customer present at the time were asked to remain at the bank until police arrived. He said he then filled out some police paperwork and was on his way in about 30 minutes.

Having grown up in a “rough neighborhood” near Los Angeles, Gomez said he “didn’t feel scared,” when he learned of the robbery, but noted, “I was concerned. I was uncomfortable.”

Though the active search for the suspect was called off yesterday, police are asking that anyone with information on the case contact Hood River Police Detective Mike Martin at 541-387-5257.

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