Tips help identify bank robbery suspect, accomplice

Oak Harbor police identified a suspect and an accomplice in an April 30 bank robbery, but they aren’t naming the men yet.

Chief Kevin Dresker said the police received many tips after the story appeared online in the Whidbey News-Times and other places. The tips led to the accomplice, who confessed to his part in the crime.

According to the police, the suspect forced his way into Washington Federal on Southwest Barlow Street as an employee was arriving at about 8:30 a.m. The man in a black ski mask brandished what appeared to be a firearm and forced the employee to give him cash.

Dresker said Detective Jon Valenzuela happened to be in the area to investigate a report of people smoking pot in a car. Investigators believe a lookout called the suspect while he was in the bank and warned him about a police officer being nearby, at which point the suspect fled.

Valenzuela heard screaming and gave chase after seeing the man run from the bank. The suspected bank robber stumbled and dropped some of the case; his ski mask was later located.

Two other officers joined the pursuit, but the man had a lead on them and was able to get away in an area of thick brush. Officers set up containment in the area, but the man likely escaped before it was complete, Dresker said.

The police searched the area for hours, with the help of law enforcement from the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the State Patrol.

The sheriff’s office used a drone to search blackberry bushes.

Dresker said the suspect was picked up by a friend north of Oak Harbor and driven off the island, heading south on Interstate 5. The police are working with agencies from off the island to track down the suspect.

The police have not released the amount of cash that was stolen.

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