Alleged 'Cotton Ball Bandit' Avoids Plea as DA Mulls More Charges, Report says

The alleged serial bank robber made his second court appearance on Friday since being captured at the end of a wild chase earlier this month.

Photo taken from surveillance video of the “Cotton Ball Bandit” during an Aug. 21 robbery. Credit: FBI
Photo taken from surveillance video of the “Cotton Ball Bandit” during an Aug. 21 robbery. Credit: FBI

An alleged serial bank robber who led police on a wild chase earlier this month avoided issuing a plea on Friday as prosecutors told a Marin County superior court judge they're considering more charges against him, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

Christopher Jay Wootton, 60, of Larkspur, an allegedly notorious bank robber nicknamed the “Cotton Ball Bandit,” was charged on Dec. 19 with the Dec. 11 robbery of a Novato bank and is also suspected of robbing at least four other banks in the county.

Wooten was making his second court appearance since his Dec. 11 capture.

Wooten was hospitalized with gunshot wounds after a frantic chase in which he allegedly pulled an automatic firearm at a sheriff’s deputy and a San Rafael police officer, the report said.

If convicted, Wooten faces a possible enhanced three strikes sentence, according to the IJ report that cites prosecutors confirming that Wooten has prior convictions for kidnapping and residential burglary, among others.

San Rafael police and the Marin County Sheriff's Office have sent information on the other bank robberies to the Marin County District Attorney's Office for review and charges.

San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said this week four law enforcement agencies in the county are investigating whether Wootton is the "Cotton Ball Bandit" who robbed 11 banks since December 2012.

So far Wootton is charged only with the robbery of the Bank of the West at 1313 Grant Ave. in Novato on Dec. 13.

NBC news on Dec. 12 confirmed that Wootton is the “Cotton Ball Bandit.” 

Wootton also is charged with evading police by driving recklessly, two counts of assault with a firearm on a peace officer and being a felon in possession of a loaded weapon in a vehicle.

He did not enter a plea at his arraignment and his next court date is Dec. 27.

He is being held under $2 million bail in the county jail.

Wootton was shot by a Marin County Sheriff's Deputy Donald Carpenter, a 7-year veteran, after a pursuit from the Novato bank.

A sheriff's deputy followed the Novato bank robber's silver Saturn on U.S. Highway 101 and San Rafael streets until the Saturn crashed into a light pole in the 600 block of Las Gallinas Avenue near the Northgate Mall, San Rafael police said.

Wootton got out of the car and ran across the street with a gun in his hand, Rohrbacher said. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries when Carpenter shot him. He was released from Marin General Hospital Tuesday afternoon.


Bay City News contributed to this report.

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