Suspect sought in bank robbery | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Suspect sought in bank robbery

William Ferchland

South Lake Tahoe Police Department. A suspect in Monday's robbery at El Dorado Savings Bank on Highway 89 was seen by surveillance cameras.

A man who robbed El Dorado Savings Bank this week was asked by two employees if he needed help before he handed a note to a teller demanding cash, authorities said.

South Lake Tahoe police Sgt. Cam Carmichael said the man stalled before committing the robbery Monday by standing next to a plant and sitting on a couch to possibly wait for all teller windows to be occupied.

When asked by the bank employees if he needed assistance, the man’s reply was, “he was waiting for his wife,” Carmichael said.

Police said the man used the note to imply he had a weapon before escaping El Dorado Savings Bank on Highway 89 and running toward the “Y.”

“The note said ‘This is a bank robbery,'” said Detective Mark Tappen. The note also stated, “I don’t want to shoot you,” Tappen said.

“He was in and out pretty quick,” Tappen said. “It was less than four minutes.”

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When the man sat at the couch he spoke to a customer, although it is unclear what the brief conversation was about, authorities said. There was nothing distinguishable about the man’s voice, authorities said.

A black beanie and dark fleece were found behind Tahoe Doughnuts at the “Y” and could be clothing used by the robber, Carmichael said.

Video surveillance from the bank captured the suspect in color. Police hope someone in the community will recognize the man’s unique features, such as his height of 5-feet-6-inches and dark hair down to the shirt collar.

“We’re (asking) our community for assistance on this,” Carmichael said. “They know him better than we do.”

The robbery at 3:20 p.m. was the third in six months for El Dorado Savings Bank. In September the branch along Al Tahoe Boulevard was hit. Last month a man took cash from the bank branch at Bijou.

Bank Chief Executive Officer Tom Meuser would not comment on the string of robberies.

“There’s really nothing I can tell you about the robbery,” he said. “For security reasons, it’s always been our policy never to discuss robberies at any of our branches.”

Besides the long hair and short stature, the man was described as a thin white male around 40 with alcohol-laced breath and bloodshot eyes.

At least five marked law enforcement vehicles and other unmarked cars searched the area without luck. Searches after the robberies in February and September also came back empty.

Both Tappen and Carmichael referred to aspects of South Lake Tahoe such as snow berms and empty vacation houses as hiding places for bank robbers.

“They can duck and cover in a lot of places,” Carmichael said.

“That’s why we’re relying on our community to help in our investigation,” he added.

Carmichael knows the man “bolted” in front of the U.S. Post Office building neighboring the bank.

Carmichael hopes someone in the community will recognize the man and contact either Secret Witness at (530) 541-6800 or Detective Tappen at (530) 542-6134.

Past arrests of two South Lake Tahoe bank robbers were solved by different means. In 2002 Randy Rutherford was given three years in prison for robbing the same El Dorado Savings Bank branch hit Monday. Although public input helped solve the case, Rutherford’s dainty nose recognized by the teller and white dog hair that clung to a jacket he was wearing then ditched after the robbery helped lead to a conviction.

Russell Waggoner was captured by authorities in Sparks in 2004 after fingerprints lifted from four robberies at three El Dorado Savings branches led to his identity.