Naselle bank robber still at large

Robbery suspect

NASELLE, Wash. — The woman who robbed the Naselle Bank of the Pacific last week is still on the loose.

“We’re still plugging away on that,” Lieutenant Jim Bergstrom, of the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office said late last week. “We are running down numerous tips from the information that’s been put out there.” As he spoke, Bergstrom was preparing to scrutinize surveillance footage from the bank.

“We are going to see what else other people might have missed,” Bergstrom said.

A heavy-set, dark-haired woman in her early to mid-30s entered the bank around 3:50 p.m. on July 24, and passed a note to a teller. She allegedly pushed a couple of tellers around and climbed over the counter while trying to force her way into the cash drawers. She left on foot a couple of minutes later. The tellers weren’t seriously hurt, Bergstrom said.

Wahkiakum County deputies and officers from other agencies who were in the area also responded.

The Bank and Sherif’s Officehave not revealed the amount of money she stole, but Bergstrom said it was not a substantial amount. The bank reopened on July 26, and is now offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the robber’s arrest.

On Aug. 1, Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said deputies are still “actively investigating.” The woman did not attempt to disguise herself, but so far, police haven’t been able to identify her, he said.

Bergstrom said bank robberies are extremely rare in the county, although the same branch was robbed in 1983 and 1984. According to Chinook Observer records, the last bank robbery occurred in December 2007, when a tall, heavy-set man took a hostage inside the great Northwest Federal Credit Union in Long Beach. He pepper-sprayed all three employees before locking them in the restroom, and making off with about $7,000.

The man, who robbed several other, mostly small and rural Oregon and Washington banks around the same time, became known as “The Pepper Spray Bandit.”

According to the FBI, 4,900 people committed a total of 4,251 bank robberies, burglaries and larcenies in 2016. About 148 of those crimes occurred in Washington.

In some ways, last week’s robbery was typical. Most occur at branches of commercial banks, and in most cases, no one is seriously injured or killed. Like the Naselle suspect, about half of the robbers in 2016 used a note to make their demand for money.

However, female bank robbers are quite unusual. Just under 4 percent of the perpetrators were women last year. Bank robberies in rural communities are also rare. In 2016, just 110 of the bank crimes occurred in rural areas.

If you have information about the robbery, contact Lt. Jim Bergstrom at 360-875-9397 or call Crime Stoppers to report anonymously.