INDIO – Law-enforcement authorities believe they have caught the “desperate bandit,” wanted in connection with numerous bank robberies in Orange County.
Indio police arrested Michael Patrick Downing, 47, of Chino Hills after a bank robbery in that city Friday.
A FirstBank branch at 82900 Avenue 42 was robbed after a man approached the teller with a note demanding money, Indio police said in a written statement.
The man drove from the bank parking lot in a white Toyota Corolla with an undisclosed amount of money, investigators said.
Police radioed the car’s description and an officer spotted a vehicle matching that description on westbound I-10 about a mile west of the bank, Indio police spokesman Benjamin Guitron said.
A patrol car followed the vehicle another three to four miles until back-up units arrived and then pulled the car over, Guitron said.
The driver, Downing, was arrested.
A two-liter plastic bottle filled with clear liquid and suspicious wiring was found by investigators during a search of Downing’s car; the Riverside Sheriff’s Department sent out its Hazardous Device Team.
“We were not going to take any chances so we called them out,” Guitron said. “He made a device to look like (a bomb) but turns out it wasn’t.”
Police procedure requires that officers report bank robberies to the FBI.
Police said after the report Friday that FBI officials suspected Downing might be connected to the nine desperate bandit robberies that occurred over the past year in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties because of the nature of the crime and Downing’s physical description.
In Orange County, the desperate bandit has been blamed for bank robberies in Tustin, La Habra, Anaheim Hills, Fullerton and Placentia.
The robber was given the nickname after describing himself as desperate in one of the notes passed to a bank teller.
Downing admitted that he committed several other bank robberies in Southern California, Guitron said.
“It’s 99.99 percent that it is probably our bank robber,” Guitron said.
By ALYSSA DURANTY/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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