DADE CITY — They got the suspect's photo minutes after the bank robbery. It was a good one.
"We'll have this guy before the end of the night," Dade City police Chief Ray Velboom said to himself Tuesday. Not only did the photo clearly show the man's face, but the suspect, being a hefty man, was recognizable.
"We'll get him," Velboom thought.
At 10:47 a.m. that day, the man strode into the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union at 12542 Curley Road and, according to authorities, told the teller:
"This is a robbery. I'm not messing around. I have a gun."
The man never showed a weapon, but kept his left hand inside his shirt sleeve indicating he had a gun, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states. The teller gave $7,143 to the man, who sped away in a silver sedan.
Hours later, after he shaved off his goatee, paid some bills and did some shopping, the suspect was in custody and confessing.
Things fell into place for this to happen:
A Pasco deputy happened to be in the area, so response time to the robbery was immediate.
The credit union is part of a coalition of banks that meets with the Sheriff's Office monthly for safety training. Their camera was positioned at the right angle to get a good, clear shot of the robber's face. The tellers are trained to be calm and get as much description as possible.
The bank sent the photo of the robber to the Sheriff's Office moments after it happened.
The Sheriff's Office quickly sent out the photo and suspect description to the media and to area law enforcement agencies.
Because the bank is so close to Dade City, the Police Department thought the suspect might be a local resident. The department sent the photo to area banks and businesses. A few hours later, their hunch was fruitful and a local bank teller called the office:
"I know who this guy is," said the teller. "His name is Raymond Barnes."
The teller said Barnes, who is 31, unemployed, and lives in Dade City, comes into her bank often with his girlfriend. Authorities declined to state which bank.
Detectives researched Barnes and found out he spent four years in prison for robbery with a deadly weapon. He was released in 2005. They looked him up on Facebook and his profile photo matched the bank's photo of the suspect, down to the goatee and sunglasses. Pasco detectives went to his address at 37212 Majestic Oak Court in Dade City. He wasn't there. While staking out the area, a Dade City police officer saw Barnes driving a rental car on Coleman Avenue at 6 p.m. Barnes was pulled over, interviewed and arrested.
"He confessed to the bank robbery," said Pasco Sgt. Mel Eakley, whose team worked the case.
Eakley said the investigation went smoothly and quickly because of good teamwork and information sharing.
Barnes said he robbed the bank because of the economy: He's unemployed, his girlfriend is unemployed, they can't pay their bills, Eakley said.
Eakley said some of the money was recovered, though Barnes told detectives he spent some of it. Eakley would not say what Barnes bought or what bills he paid.
Eakley said Barnes pretended to have a gun while he robbed the bank — and used his girlfriend's car in the caper, later ditching it for a rental car.
Barnes is charged with robbery with a deadly weapon. He is being held at the Pasco jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.
"We had great cooperation," Velboom said of the case. "That's what it's all about: Working together."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.