When the holdup man walked into the First American Bank branch on 15th Street NW yesterday, everything was quiet. Good news for any robber.

When he came out, the street was filled with police cars, the scream of sirens and the glare of flashing lights. Bad news for any robber.

The tumult had nothing to do with him, as it turned out. The police cars at that moment were escorting Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke to the Madison Hotel, just a half block away. But for the robber, it was just the beginning of really bad news.

Because just then, a specially prepared package of money given to him by a teller exploded, spewing red dye in all directions, including the bandit's. Then the bank manager came after him, joined by a group of passers-by.

When the dye pack exploded, the bandit dropped his loot and fled into an alley in the 1100 block of 15th Street. Police said a suspect subsequently was cornered in a parking garage in the 1300 block of Naylor Court NW, about seven blocks from the bank at 1123 15th St.

Officers said they arrested a man whom they identified as Rhett Mario Drake, 26, of 4950 Benning Rd. SE, and charged him with robbery. They said he was being held last night pending arraignment today.