January 21, 2015

Prolific Bank Robber Captured with FBI Assistance

The press release was originally issued by the Olympia Police Department, whose point of contact is Lieutenant Jim Costa at (360) 753-8411.

The Olympia Police Department responded to and investigated two armed robberies that occurred on September 20, 2014. The first occurred at the Taco Bell and the second at the Bank of America. Both businesses are located on the Westside of Olympia. Since that date fourteen (14) similar robberies have taken place throughout the Puget Sound Area (Olympia, Lacey, Thurston County, Puyallup, Tacoma, Spanaway, Pierce County and Kent jurisdictions all have had armed robberies committed by a subject with similar physical descriptions and patterns of behavior).

During all but one of the robberies the suspect displayed a handgun, wore a mask and had a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. On November 4th, 2014, during a robbery at a Pizza Time located in Thurston County, the suspect fired his weapon during a struggle with an employee. The suspect continued to rob primarily Pizza Time businesses until late November 2014. On November 26th, 2014 the Umpqua Bank located on the Westside of Olympia was held up at gunpoint by a lone gunman matching the prior robberies. Since the robbery on November 26th, the suspect has committed an additional 5 armed bank robberies.

Beginning in early October, Detectives and Analysts from Olympia PD, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Puyallup PD, Thurston County SO, Kent PD, and the FBI began working together to develop possible leads on this crime series. A series of surveillance details began at regional banks. On January 10th, 2015, during a surveillance detail at one of Olympia’s Westside Banks, Detective Bryan Houser and Officer Jason Watkins from the Olympia Police Department noted a suspicious vehicle and were able to capture a license plate on a grey sedan that was slowly rolling through the parking lot. Officers lost sight of the vehicle in heavy Westside traffic. About 30 minutes after losing sight of the vehicle the Columbia Bank, located in the Lacey area, was robbed at gunpoint. The license plate associated with the suspicious sedan was a switched plate that was not currently registered to another vehicle. Olympia Detectives began working leads on the license plate with assistance from other law enforcement agencies that now also included Lacey PD, Tumwater PD and the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force. Detective’s determined the canceled license plate was traded in and resold at the Olympia Auto Mall. A similar vehicle that matched the description of the suspect vehicle at the bank was spotted on the Westside of Olympia a short time later. Olympia Detectives continued surveillance at local banks as well as the dark grey sedan with the assistance of multiple other law enforcement agencies.

On January 20th, 2015 Detectives followed the dark gray sedan to a residence in the Shelton, WA area. The driver of that vehicle remained at the residence for a brief period of time, then left heading back to the Olympia Area. Detectives noted the vehicle had switched license plates from the time the driver pulled into the garage for the trip back to the Olympia Area. Detectives continued to follow this subject to the Westside of Olympia where the driver began driving around local banks. Just prior to closing hours at the Olympia Federal Bank on the Westside of Olympia, the occupant of this vehicle parked away from the bank in the same area that a police K-9 tracked to during a December 26th robbery at the same bank. Detectives who were already in place observed the subject exit his vehicle and begin walking toward the front door of the bank. The subject was observed wearing similar items that were worn in previous robberies. Detectives were able to take the subject into custody and prevent the bank from being robbed without an escalation of force despite the subject being armed at the time of the encounter.

Arrested and booked into the Thurston County Jail for eight (8) counts of Robbery in the First Degree was; Eric M. Collier, 35 year old white male who resides in the Shelton, WA area.