Filed under: bank robbers

Bomb Strapping Bandits, again?

(This entry was authored by Eyes for Lies. The author can be contacted at her site.)

*Update(s) at end of Post*

Yesterday in Hollywood, Florida, a Wachovia bank teller told police that two people (some reports suggest a third) with masks and guns kidnapped him at home. He said they strapped a bomb to his chest with duct tape. The teller reported that they then questioned him for over two hours about bank procedures before forcing him to drive with them in his car to the bank where he works to rob it.

Reports vary as to what happened once the robbers and teller reached the bank. Some sources say the man was forced to open a side door near the drive-thru. Once inside, the two kidnappers told the teller to hand over money or they would detonate the bomb they’d strapped to his body. Another report says the men went to the drive-thru window to demand the money. A more current report published today states the men actually went inside the bank to open a safe.

In the end, the robbers got away with more than $10,000. Reports say the robbers fled the scene, leaving the man and his bomb behind.

Police arrived on the scene, removed the bomb, and then detonated it. The fragments of the device are now being investigated to determine if, in fact, the bomb was real. The two suspects who fled the scene have not been caught, but police did speak to and release the teller who had the bomb strapped to his chest. His name has not been released.

Several things jump out at me when I look at this story. In news reports, you can see the man sitting on the curb at the drive-thru waiting to be rescued by police. What is so odd is the man is wearing a dress shirt, pants and a tie (no tie, sorry). Yet he reports being at home with his girlfriend when he was kidnapped.

According to reports from Local10.com, a Hollywood police captain told one of their reporters that it was this teller’s day off.

Why was he dressed up as if he was going to work when he was hanging out with his girlfriend on his day off?

When I look at the photos from this crime, I don’t see the bomb on the outside of his shirt. Do you? If I see this correctly, they strapped it underneath his shirt and not on top of it. Why would someone who kidnapped a man take the time to have the man undress to strap on a bomb? Why waste the time in doing this? What does it serve? If I see this correctly, this is perplexing, too.

Also, what robbers spend two hours in a stranger’s house — risking that someone could come home and surprise them — to ask a teller about the bank’s security before robbing it? Most robbers have a plan before they rob a bank. And the robbers were depending on the kidnapping victim having a car — and gas in that car — as well as keys to the bank (depending on the story). I find this odd, as well. The event seems unplanned and unprofessional, if you ask me.

One thing is for certain — if this bomb-strapped man is not involved, he knew the robbers because they were depending on him for so much. The robbers had to know that no one would come home during their two-hour bank learning lesson. They also depended on their victim for transportation, gas and keys. Yet the bomb-strapped-man can’t give any description of his kidnappers even though he spent two hours with them. He just says they wore masks and carried guns.

I find the story suspicious at this point, but I suppose it could be explainable with some incredible one-in-a-million odds. I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for any developments. How I would love to watch this man talk about this ordeal!

Sources:

* http://cbs4.com/topstories/local_story_269075628.html

* http://cbs4.com/topstories/local_story_268192500.html

* http://www.local10.com/news/14206695/detail.html

Update 2:09 pm, 9-27-07:

Police have released the identities of the man strapped with the bomb as Christopher W. Ferreira, 23. Reports now say that his girlfriend Cindy Wade, 23, was also abducted. Furthermore, it is being reported that the two live together in the gated Paradise Pointe Apartments.

The Bank-Robbing Pixies of Acworth, Georgia

Just a few minutes after noon on Tuesday, February 27, 2007, two cute young women walked into the Kroger Grocery store located at 1720 Mars Hill Road in Acworth, Georgia.

One girl was blond, the other a brunette. Both wore large sunglasses and their hair pulled back.

They went to a teller at the Bank of America located inside the store and gave that teller a note demanding cash. The teller complied, and as the girls waited, they were seen on surveillance footage smiling.

The bizarrely fresh-faced women, perhaps no more than girls, walked out with an undisclosed amount of money. A full story about the robbery can be read here, at AJC.com.

I normally try to avoid blogging about a crime where I don’t feel I have anything to add to the coverage already done by the mainstream media. However, in this instance, I was struck by the unique nature of the robbery and by an insight that could only come to someone with a performing arts background.

The girls look like middle-class teenagers to me, probably not yet in their twenties. They could have been playing hooky from school or maybe even left a local campus on lunch break. They could also be just old enough to be in college.

From the AJC article it appears that police think the sunglasses may help someone figure out who these two are, but what stood out to me were their clothes and carriage.

Both appear to be in good shape. The blond has a long neck and she and her partner both appear to have good posture. Most of all, the top worn by the blond rang a bell. I looked closely at the surveillance photos today and thought, “they look like dancers or gymnasts.” I’ve rarely encountered a woman wearing the particular type of top seen on the blond robber who was not somehow involved in dance, gymnastics, or at the very least, aerobic fitness.

Young women who have backgrounds in gymnastics and/or dance frequently have been sculpted by the years of training — not just their muscle tone, but their posture, the way they walk, sit, and move. Seeing how these two walked would tell me with much more certainty if my insight was correct, or not.

The cases I know of where very young middle-class women have committed similar crimes have come from two motivations: drugs, and the need to buy more; the sheer thrill of trying to get away with it. Another insight I had after reading about the pixie-ish bank robbers was that their motivations were likely the latter — they got the idea, and they went for it. That they might be involved in any pursuit like dance or gymnastics, physical pursuits that require incredible self-discipline, makes a weird kind of sense, if you think about it. Some people build up steam that no amount of rehearsing or working out can alleviate.

As for the dance angle — there is a dance studio that teaches ages 5 to adult very close to that Kroger. It hasn’t been there very long. Rather than pick over nearby high schools looking for the girls, an easy tack might be to just check on older teen students at that dance school. It seems to fly in the face of most everything I know about criminal behavior, but that’s why I think the girls were in it for the kicks. I’d imagine the attention being paid to the robbery is either scaring the hell out of both of them, or the biggest charge they’ve gotten from anything in quite a long time.

Be they dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, or just two delinquents who happen to give off the impression they could be one of those, they are now potentially felons. I have a feeling that didn’t occur to either girl when they decided to make their noon stop at Kroger that day.

Additional link: The Smoking Gun, as usual, is there.

UPDATE, 3/01/07

In the comments on this entry, “The Drizzle” makes a good point (and uses a very funny screen name — “dancing is forbidden,” you know). The girls could be wearing stock Abercrombie & Fitch-style tops — not cheap clothes, either. Additionally, I didn’t make a big point of mentioning that they could also be cheerleaders, but I did mention cheerleading.

Our local Fox affiliate here in Atlanta is reporting today that Cobb County police do have two young women who match the appearances of the girls in the surveillance photos in for questioning. The girls and an adult male were apparently arrested in neighboring Douglas County. I’ll continue updating this entry as needed.

UPDATE 2, 3/01/07

Could it be any more stereotypical? The girls were apparently named Ashley and Heather. They allegedly robbed the bank in collusion with a teller, Benny Allen, and another guy named Michael Chastang. Ashley Miller and Heather Johnson were both 19.

No wonder they were smiling. That was a big clue hiding in plain sight, right there. They were smiling because they were working with one of the tellers. The “barbie” robbers were relaxed because it was an inside job.

At 19, could they be in college, sorority sisters? I’ll be interested to find out.