St. Pete police: Dye pack explodes as bank robber escapes on bus

ST. PETERSBURG — The man who entered the Wachovia branch at 125 Fifth St. S on Thursday came prepared with a threatening note and a disguise.

But it was the rest of his plan to pull off a bank heist, St. Petersburg police said, that may have gone awry:

First, the man made his getaway on a public bus.

Second, police said he was on the bus when a red dye pack hidden with the stolen money exploded inside his jacket.

"Typically they're loud and they spread this red dye all over the person's clothes and body," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt. "It would be very noticeable to anybody who saw him."

That might explain why the robber had to make two getaways in one day.

"He was last seen running away from the bus," Proffitt said.

Officers were still searching for the red-stained robber as night fell Thursday.

The robbery took place at 2:28 p.m. when the man handed the teller a note demanding money and implying he was armed, police said.

But no one saw a gun, police said. The robber escaped on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Police next picked up his trail on a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus, which is where he was when the dye pack exploded. Police did not disclose where the bus was at the time. They don't believe anyone else on the bus was injured or hit with the red dye.

Officers were alerted to the bus incident, but the robber had already fled on foot in an unknown direction. He was described as a white man in his late 50s, about 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 9 with a slender build. He has deep pockmarks on his face and was wearing large, brown-framed glasses with thick lenses.

He was last seen wearing a gold or beige jacket, dark pants with a blue bandana tied over his head and a tan baseball cap with a blue jean rim pulled over the bandana.

Police don't know whether the man's vision is really impaired or what his prescription might be, but the combination of cap and bandana suggests an attempt to disguise himself.

"It looks like a subtle disguise," Proffitt said. "The bandana with the cap on top and the big glasses. All these robbers know these banks have video surveillance equipment."

Do they know that PSTA buses also have video surveillance cameras?

"Probably not," Proffitt said.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to call Detective Michael Hawkins at (727) 893-4978 or the robbery unit at (727) 893-7179.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

St. Pete police: Dye pack explodes as bank robber escapes on bus 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 10:26pm]

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