A 46-year-old Mitchell resident was arrested late Monday afternoon in the Marion County city of Stayton on charges that he robbed a Columbia Bank branch in northeast Bend less than seven hours earlier, police said Monday night.
Police held back details on how their investigation quickly identified Gary Kent Peterson as the suspect in the holdup, but said he was found and arrested in Stayton without incident around 4 p.m., with the help of local authorities.
Police earlier had called the case a theft – not a robbery – because they said no weapon was seen or threat of violence made. But Peterson was arrested on third-degree robbery and second-degree theft charges, Lt. Nick Parker said, citing “additional evidence” that supported the robbery charge.
Peterson was brought back to Bend and booked into the Deschutes County Jail shortly after midnight, jail records showed.
Investigators believe Peterson left the Bend area in a black 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee after robbing the bank, Parker said. Police are asking that anyone who saw a similar vehicle near the bank around the time of the robbery to call them through Deschutes County dispatchers at (541) 693-6911.
Parker said they still have no indication a weapon was used in the crime. Instead, he pointed to a part of the Oregon statute for third-degree robbery -- a Class C felony -- which involves "compelling the owner" of stolen property to deliver it "or engage in other conduct which might aid in the commission of the theft" or a car theft.
It was the city's eighth bank robbery in 2 1/2 years -- but the latest two, both this year, have led to arrests of suspects in fairly short order.
Parker said officers were dispatched at 9:42 a.m. Monday to the bank at 1701 NE Third Street on a report of a robbery. He fled before officers arrived.
The man entered the bank, sat down with a teller and calmly asked for money, Parker said, terming it more a request than a demand. He added that no weapons were seen or threats made.
Nevertheless, the man obtained an undisclosed amount of money and ran out, heading west, Parker said, adding that no one was injured.
The suspect was described as a white male adult, 40 to 50 years old, 6-foot to 6-foot-4, with a slender build, brown and gray hair and a long, graying goatee, Parker said. He was wearing a dark-colored baseball-style hat and a dark-colored sweatshirt.
Bend police and Deschutes County sheriff's deputies were assisted by the FBI in their investigation. Three K-9 teams also were involved in the search effort.
Several reports were followed up on in the first minutes, including a man seen running near the railroad tracks a couple blocks away.
Police also quickly released a bank surveillance photo of the suspect to the media.
The bank's ATM reopened about two hours after the theft and the branch was open again a short time later.
The only previous arrest in the string of bank robberies came after the April 24th holdup of a branch of Home Federal Bank at 671 NE Greenwood Avenue.
The following week, Robert Chester Short, 54, of Madras was arrested at a campground near Prineville. Police said he’d given the teller a note written on the back of a partial grocery receipt, which led to his arrest.
Police said they didn’t believe he was tied to six previous robberies in the area, including those tied to a serial bank robber, the so-called Big-Belly Bandit, who held up two Bend banks a total of five times over two years, starting in December 2011.
The eighth holdup occurred two years ago, when a knife-wielding man in a black hooded sweatshirt, with a white bandana over his face, held up the U.S. Bank branch at 1442 NE Third Street.