By Gideon Rubin
NBC news on Thursday night confirmed what everyone following the case of a serial Marin County bank robber already knows: The “Cotton Ball Bandit’s” alleged year-long robbery streak is no more.
The report cited unidentified law enforcement sources who confirmed that they believe the robbery suspect shot by a Marin County sheriff’s deputy on Wednesday morning at the end of a frantic chase is allegedly one of the most prolific bank robbers in recent Marin County history.
Authorities on Thursday declined to confirm that the suspect is the serial robber, saying that doing so would compromise an ongoing investigation.
“We have investigative leads we need to follow and we don’t want to release that information until we’ve followed up on all of these leads,” San Rafael Police Department spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said.
His name could be released today, Rohrbacher said.
The “Cotton Ball Bandit” – so named because of the pom-pom ball atop the brown knit hat with earflaps he’s worn during most of his robberies – saw his alleged robbery streak end in a hail of gunfire, ostensibly on the front lawn of a Wells Fargo Bank on 600 Las Gallinas Avenue he’s suspected of hitting six weeks ago.
The chase started after he allegedly robbed a Bank of the West on 1313 Grant Avenue in Novato.
He was captured the day before the one-year anniversary of his first alleged heist (he’s suspected in the robbery of a Chase Bank at 401 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Greenbrae on Dec. 12 of last year).
The suspect is recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered after pulling a gun on a sheriff’s deputy who chased him from Highway 101 through the streets of downtown San Rafael to Northgate Mall, authorities said.
The chase ended when the suspect crashed into a parking sign on Las Gallinas Avenue near Northgate Mall (across the street from the Wells Fargo Bank) and tried to run away.
His 11th alleged robbery would tie him for the longest Marin County bank job streak in recent history.
The “Cotton Ball Bandit” would share that title with Tracy Bittner, who robbed his 11th in 2000, the Marin Independent Journal reports.
Bittner was nicknamed the “Bicycle Bandit” because he fled robbery scenes on two wheels, according to the report. He served a 40-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to nine heists in which he reportedly stole $58,000.
Multiple agencies including the FBI, which has issued a $2,500 reward for the serial robber’s capture, are involved in the investigation.
The case could go to the Marin County District Attorney or move to federal prosecutors.