The Washington Post

Man held in four bank robbery attempts, including three in one day

It was late on a Friday afternoon in June, and the man had already tried and failed to rob one bank in Southeast, D.C. police said. He found himself in an upscale NoMa neighborhood rising out of an old industrial park.

At 4:55 p.m., police said, he walked into a Wells Fargo branch at 1200 First St. NE and handed a customer service representative a note demanding money. The clerk told him there was no access to cash, and the man retreated, heading west on Patterson Street.

Within five minutes, police said, the man was back on First Street, inside a bank at the other end of the block — the two lending institutions separated by a Harris Teeter grocery store, a Hilton Garden Inn, a Potbelly sandwich shop, a Roti Mediterranean Grill restaurant and a Tynan Coffee and Tea shop.

Police said he handed a note to a teller at the TD Bank, written in blue ink on white paper, demanding “100s and 50s only.” The teller handed over several hundred dollars, and the man left, according to a police report.

The suspect in those incidents — Maurice Anthony Douglas, 20, of Southeast — was arrested Tuesday by the police department’s Robbery Task Force. He has been indicted by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court on four counts of bank robbery and is being detained until a hearing July 25.

Douglas’s attorney, Michelle M. Peterson of the federal public defender’s office, said in court Friday that family members said her client might suffer from an “undiagnosed mental condition.” She said that Douglas has “no real criminal record to speak of” but that his mood had changed recently. She urged the judge to release him into the custody of his grandfather, who promised to get him psychiatric help.

Peterson said that the alleged crimes were not violent, with no gun used, and that the grandfather had arranged Douglas’s surrender to the FBI.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory V. Cole said that Douglas had threatened to kill bank clerks who didn’t give him money, telling them that “everyone would die.” Cole also said that Douglas said “he knows the witnesses, and he knows where they work.”

“This is not a mental health issue,” the prosecutor said. “This is a criminal justice issue.”

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ordered Douglas detained until his trial.

One person targeting several banks is not unusual, though three attempts in one day — and two within five minutes — is a quick pace. Last August, a man nicknamed “Runabout” was charged with robbing two banks blocks apart on the same day in downtown Washington. That was soon after he finished serving eight years in prison for robbing three downtown banks and trying to rob a fourth in 2002. The man, Clyde Lacy Rattler, 56, was convicted in January and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The first incident in which Douglas is charged occurred shortly before 1 p.m. June 6. Police said he walked into a PNC Bank in the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. A police report says he handed over a note demanding “all the hundreds, fifties and twenties, or I’m going to shoot everybody.”

A teller handed over $500 in “bait” money, set aside for robbers. The police report says an electronic tracking device was hidden inside, but it is unclear whether the suspect discarded the money and the device.

Two Fridays later, police said, Douglas reappeared in Southeast Washington. About 12:30 p.m. June 20, police said, he strolled into a Wells Fargo branch in the 3200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE while chatting on a mobile phone. He passed a note to teller that read, “I want all your hundred’s and fifty’s,” according to a police report.

Before he received any cash, the suspect apparently panicked and ran out the front door, the report says.

Shortly before 5 p.m., police said, he was at another Wells Fargo, the one in NoMa, where he again failed to get money, and then tried the TD Bank branch on the same block. That time, police said, he walked out with $350.

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Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.



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