BEND, Ore. - Bend police on Friday released a security-camera image of the masked man who robbed a downtown Bend Home Federal Bank branch late Thursday afternoon, looking very similar to the suspect in three previous holdups over the past year.
A review of the surveillance video from the earlier holdups "shows a distinctive hairline, which is concealed" in the more recent crime, said Lt. Chris Carney.
Police converged on downtown Bend, set up perimeters and watched cars leaving the area for any sign of the man, who reportedly had a weapon, possibly a steak knife, when he robbed the Home Federal Bank at 805 NW Bond Street, then fled out a back door, heading west down Franklin Avenue around 4:45 p.m. Thursday.
The description sent out to responding officers was a white male with a heavier build, wearing a light gray hooded sweatshirt, a mask and light blue snow pants.
Lt. Ben Gregory said a few hours later it appears the suspect is the same as in the three previous bank robberies.
"It's frustrating, but there are also benefits to it being the same person, because you get to learn the same types of scenarios that are similar," Carney said Friday. "If it's someone new, it's how do we stop these people from doing it? But here you're really looking at that one person."
Even though the bank was robbed just hours earlier, on Friday morning, many customers were doing business as usual.
"I mean, I think it's safe and I'm not worried about it," said Home Federal customer John Boyd. "I just think the guy is fat and ugly and someone ought to identify him, because he must be around Bend somewhere."
Police also are concerned that it could just be a matter of time before the serial bank robber strikes again.
"Well, indication would be that, unless we stop him, at this point, he probably doesn't see any reason not to," Carney said
The most recent robbery happened two days after Christmas -- while the first occurred three days before Christmas 2011 at the Bank of the Cascades branch at 61250 S. Highway 97, police said. Another robbery occurred at the same bank branch just over three months later, on April 9.
In late October, police said they had determined a July 30 holdup at the downtown Home Federal branch appeared to have been committed by the same robber as the two BoTC holdups. Police also announced a $5,000 reward for tips leading to the culprit's arrest.
In each case, he was described as a light-skinned, heavyset adult male, 5-foot-8 to 5-10, about 30 to 40 years of age. Information and surveillance photos were sent to police nationwide, but as of this fall, police said they still had no solid leads, thus the reward was offered.
A knife apparently was used in the Home Federal holdups; only a threat of a weapon was mentioned in the Bank of the Cascades robberies.
Carney told NewsChannel 21 in a live broadcast near the bank around 6 p.m. Thursday that the bank crime scene was being examined for any helpful clues, along with officers and detectives interviewing witnesses.
"We know he left on foot, so we have units around the city in certain locations where we're just trying to wait and see if anybody comes by," Carney said, and a couple K-9s also were involved in the manhunt.
Later, Carney said in a brief news release that the man entered the bank around 4:44 p.m. "armed with a weapon and demanded money. The suspect left the scene with an unknown amount of cash."
If folks believe they may have seen the robber, or have other information to share, "we want them to call us," Carney added. "Any information is still good information for us. We don't care how small it is. Every once in a while, people talk. Whoever this person is may tell a friend."
The lieutenant cited the danger to the public from such incidents, such as if a bystander tries to intervene.
"At this point, nobody's been hurt" in the string of holdups, Carney said. "We want to make sure nobody gets hurt in the future."
At 6:30 p.m., Carney was back live on NewsChannel 21, telling us that while the perimeter was being dismantled -- a sign he likely got away -- police would be on scene for some time, talking to bank workers and other witnesses.
Carney said they had determined he "left the bank westbound on foot, but that doesn't give us anything more than 100 feet away from the bank," and that police still need the public's help.
On Friday, Carney said they also would like to hear from any downtown-area businesses or residents with video that might have caught the suspect on camera.
Thursday's holdup rattled downtown workers and visitors alike.
"That's a little scary -- to think somebody is on the loose that's just robbed a bank," said a passer-by, Vincent DiLeonardo. "Because he could do it to someone else in the neighborhood, or could be carrying weapons. We all know what's been happening in the country lately with that, so that's a little disconcerting."
"I'm definitely not used to this kind of things happening," said downtown worker Kelsey Holesapple. "Especially right across the street from my work. And I've been working here for a while, so I'm just like, kind of freaked out."
In the news release, Carney said the FBI is assisting in the investigation.
It's actually Bend's fifth unsolved bank holdup in the past year. A taller, skinnier man held up a U.S. Bank on NE Third Street last June.
If you have any information that could help police, you can call the Deschutes County dispatch center at (541) 693-6911. You can also contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-TIPS, or use the form on KTVZ.COM's Crime Stoppers page. You can remain anonymous, and you could receive a cash reward.