Puyallup - Police have arrested a man they believe to be the "River Rat Bandit," sought in a string of at least 18 robberies in Washington and Oregon.
Puyallup police said Sunday that a Pierce County sheriff’s SWAT team apprehended the man without incident in a vehicle as he was leaving a house near Bonney Lake, east of Tacoma, at about 9:15 p.m. Friday. The 32-year-old man was arrested on warrants alleging three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, and was being held in Pierce County Jail.
Police Deputy Chief Bryan Jeter said a man believed to be an accomplice also was arrested Saturday in Portland.
The names of the two men have not been released because they have not been formally charged, Jeter said.
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The River Rat Bandit — so named because he was sought in holdups of banks and cash-advance stores on both sides of the Columbia River — is believed to be responsible for at least 18 armed robberies from late July until early October. In all, police said, the holdups are thought to have netted close to $100,000.
Friday morning, police in the Seattle suburb of Kent notified Puyallup detectives that they had identified a fingerprint from a robbery committed by the bandit in that city, Jeter said. That led to the address of the residence in unincorporated Pierce County, just outside of Bonney Lake, he said.
The house was placed under surveillance, and officers positively identified the suspect, arresting him after he left the home.
The man confessed to some of the holdups attributed to the bandit and also was matched to surveillance photos taken during some robberies, Jeter said.
During an interview, the man implicated a possible suspect, Jeter said. Saturday afternoon, a Vancouver, Wash., police officer saw a man matching that description and followed his vehicle across the Columbia to Portland, where he was taken into custody by the officer and backup police from Portland. The 35-year-old Portland man, was arrested on a warrant alleging five counts of robbery and was being held in Multnomah County Jail.
Jeter said the man is thought to be the driver in at least five of the robberies. Both he and the man arrested in Pierce County were expected to go before judges today, he said.
Jeter said he did not anticipate further arrests.
“Right now, we think we’ve got our two people,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to keep interviewing them.”
Puyallup police was the lead agency in the arrest. Other agencies participating include the FBI, sheriff’s offices in Pierce and Clark County, and police departments for the cities of Auburn, Bonney Lake, Kent, Portland, Vancouver and the Puyallup Indian tribe.