FBI: Armed bank robbers more brazen, take hostages

Robbery of a BB&T branch on Southwest 107th Avenue.
Robbery of a BB&T branch on Southwest 107th Avenue. FBI

A small band of bank robbers upped their game last week during their most recent heist, holding people hostage and displaying weapons, before getting away with an unknown amount of cash, the FBI said.

Federal agents believe it’s the group’s fourth bank robbery since the end of August — and the most violent. Now they’re concerned about the group’s escalating tactics and have released photographs of the robberies and are asking the public to weigh in.

They “went from presenting notes to displaying firearms, taking employees and customers as hostages, and cleaning out the vault,” said FBI Task Force officer Robert Lanier.

According to the FBI, the first bank hit was a BB&T branch at 2375 SW 122nd Ave. on Aug. 28, when a man wearing a black T-shirt and a black baseball cap entered the bank and demanded money. A still photo from a surveillance camera shows him taking money from the counter top.

Then on Sept. 25, a man wearing a black Florida International University T-shirt and a black baseball cap entered another BB&T bank branch, 869 SW 107th Ave., and demanded cash as a customer was in the bank. Photos show him entering the bank and at a counter.

Almost a month later on Oct. 23, a man wearing a dark baseball cap, dark shirt, and dark sweatshirt ripped off a Citibank at 7795 W. Flagler St. Like the second robbery, customers were in the bank, though again no one was injured.

Finally, last week on Oct. 30, three men entered the same BB&T bank branch that was hit in August. All were armed and all displayed weapons and demanded money. No one was injured.

But this week at a hastily called news conference during an unrelated bank robbery in North Miami Beach, Lanier said the group of men who they believe committed the four robberies down south took employees and customers hostage, tying some up, before gaining entry to and emptying a vault.

Lanier explained that the photos showed one of the men had part of his right hand covered, leaving feds to believe it was either injured or he was covering up a tattoo. They believe the getaway car — at least during the most recent robbery — is a four-door Chevrolet Cruze with tinted windows.

The men always wear baseball caps. One of the hats worn during the Oct. 30 robbery said “Air Force.” Another man was wearing a military jumpsuit, Lanier said.

“Even with the smallest detail that you don’t think is important, we ask you to call,” Lanier said.

The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrests of any of the robbers.