Bend police say bank robbers one step ahead

After 7 unsolved holdups: 'We're working as hard as we can'

Seven robberies, no arrests

BEND, Ore. - Bend police said Friday they are actively processing potential fingerprints and DNA of the man who robbed a Home Federal Bank branch Thursday afternoon.

A man wearing sunglasses and a green bandanna over his face held up the bank at 671 NE Greenwood Ave. during the lunch hour Thursday. But before he could escape, the robber was confronted by a customer who fought with the man, trying in vain to stop him.

Capt. Ken Stenkamp said Friday the department has received about a half-dozen tips from the public regarding the man.

Stenkamp also acknowledged the latest case brings the total unsolved bank robberies to seven in the last 2 1/2 years. He said the department isn't frustrated, but uses the unresolved cases to work harder.

"It's not frustrating on morale," he said. "We still will work very hard. It doubles our resolve."

Despite five local agencies -- including the FBI -- responding to the scene, Stenkamp said crooks are always one step ahead of law enforcement.

"They are getting to choose when they commit theses robberies," Stenkamp said. "And we're always trying to catch up to them, and figure out what they were thinking, what they did at the time.

"So are the banks doing anything wrong? No. Are we doing anything wrong? No.  We're working as hard as we can."

But bank customers hope the police work will pay off soon.

"I've thought about not going to the bank for a few days," one man said Friday. "And I admire the person who tried to intervene yesterday. But you really don't know whether the thief has a gun, has a knife -- he could've  been killed. And I have several friends who work at banks. I worry about them."

Another woman, who banks at Home Federal, said, "I am shocked to hear that it got hit again. Every time I go in, I look around to see if there's anyone questionable around."

Stenkamp said the recent string of robberies aren't as unusual as they might seem. He said he's noticed a pattern over his more than 30 years with the police force.

"We average two or three bank robberies a year," Stenkamp said. "Obviously, it's more than we'd like to see."

The robber still got away, despite an extensive manhunt. The holdup led to the locking of doors at three nearby schools.

The robbery occurred around 12:45 p.m. and brought a quick rush of numerous police officers from all local agencies, including three tracking dogs. But he was not found.

Lt. Nick Parker said the man entered the bank and demanded money, though no weapons were seen. He got an undisclosed amount of money and began to run -- but a customer tried to stop him and ended up in a fight with the man, who still got away and ran toward the south.

"They did get into a physical altercation," Parker said. "That customer is actually okay and uninjured."

The suspect reportedly last was seen running west on Irving Avenue from Seventh Street.

"When I went out, I heard a screaming sound, (I) open the door and he is running this way," said nearby business owner Young Lee. "He runs fast, and another guy was chasing him. I didn't realize at first it was a robbery, but then I heard all the police sirens."

Anyone with information about the holdup is asked to contact Bend police at (541) 693-6911.

Crime Stoppers also is offering a reward for information that leads to an arrest. You can call 1-877-876-TIPS or use the form on KTVZ's Crime Stoppers page. You can remain anonymous, and could be eligible for a cash reward.

As a precaution, exterior doors were locked (a "lockout") at nearby Marshall and Bend high schools, as well as Bear Creek Elementary School. Those lockouts were lifted by about 1:45 p.m., an hour after the holdup.

Parker described the robber as a white man about 50 years old and 6-foot-2, with a slender build, brown hair with graying sides, and a white or graying beard.

He last was seen wearing a light green hoodie-type sweatshirt, blue jeans, a green bandanna and sunglasses.

Police searched nearby Juniper Park, among numerous other locations, but after about an hour reportedly was breaking down perimeter barricades as they continued to follow up leads and interviews.

Police said they don't believe the more slender robber was the serial bank robber believed to have held up two Bend banks a total of five times between December 2011 and last December.

The so-called "Big-Belly Bandit" is believed to have robbed the downtown branch of Home Federal three times and a south Bend Bank of the Cascades branch twice over that period. He was described as 5-foot-6 to 5-11, weighing 230-260 pounds, and used a weapon.

Back in June 2012, a knife-wielding man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and white bandana over his faced robbed the U.S. Bank branch at 1442 NE Third St. and ran, eluding pursuing police.

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