Police arrested a Laurel woman yesterday and charged her with one of the six "hand grenade lady" bank robberies committed since August in the Washington area in which tellers were threatened with an object resembling a grenade.
Ollin R. Crawford, 26, a cashier at a department store, was arrested without incident by Prince George's County police accompanied by Fairfax County investigators in the late afternoon at her home at 200 Fort Meade Road.
Fairfax police had issued a warrant for Crawford's arrest, charging her with the Aug. 27 robbery of the First American Bank at 6565 Little River Turnpike, Annandale. That was one of six nearly identical holdups -- five in Fairfax County and one in Montgomery -- that police attributed to "the hand grenade lady."
Crawford is charged only with one of the robberies, according to Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr., who said witnesses will be asked whether they can identify her as a suspect in others.
Fairfax County police spokesman Warren Carmichael said Crawford is "a suspect in other, similar robberies in Fairfax County, which remain under investigation at this time."
The six bank robberies came in pairs a few days apart, and five netted "substantial" amounts of money, police said.
In each instance, a woman wearing a sunglasses, a gray beret and a bulky gray sweater produced a note claiming that a lemon-shaped object she carried in a brown sock was a grenade.
Police said yesterday no grenade had been recovered, and they do not know if an actual grenade was used in the robberies.
The police investigation included FBI assistance and unproductive stakeouts at dozens of Fairfax County banks where investigators thought she might strike.
Carmichael said Crawford was identified as a suspect after a call to the county's Crime Solvers program, which guarantees the anonymity of informants and provides up to a $1,000 reward.
Crawford was held last night in the Prince George's County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro on a fugitive warrant, pending a bond hearing today and proceedings in which her extradition to Virginia will be sought.
The robbery Tuesday of a bank in the Prince George's Plaza shopping mall by a woman claiming to have both a grenade and a gun was said by police to have been a "copycat" crime committed by someone who employed some of the same methods.
Carmichael said the warrant for Crawford's arrest was issued "at least a week ago," but that it was only this week that police learned where she lived.
After the warrant was obtained, two Fairfax County banks were held up by a woman believed by police to be "the grenade lady."
Last Friday, the day after a holdup attempt at a Bailey's Crossroads bank, county police were staked out at more than two dozen banks in Annandale and Springfield. The "hand grenade lady" did not strike, but police arrested another bank robbery suspect who stumbled into one of the stakeouts.
Police said the robberies were extraordinary in part because they have been committed by a woman. Fewer than a half dozen robberies a year of any sort in the county are committed by women, Carmichael said, and police officials could not recall the last time the county had a female bank robber.
Moreover, the "hand grenade lady" or the "lady in gray" -- another police term for her -- was always cool and unflappable, never hurrying either into or from the banks she was robbing.
The note employed stated that she had a hand grenade, demanded money, specified which cash drawer it should come from and in what denominations, and demanded the return of the note.
At a robbery last Thursday, a teller told the holdup woman that the drawer she specified was empty. When the robber insisted, police said, the teller displayed the empty drawer, and the woman walked calmly from the bank empty-handed.