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Police link arrestee to another robbery

A Clearwater man arrested last week after trying to rob a Seminole bank has been linked to another bank robbery on Indian Rocks Road, police said Wednesday.

Investigators in Clearwater are also looking at the man as a possible suspect in recent crimes in that city, police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.

In Largo's case, police said Robert John Eckes, 26, walked into the Fifth Third Bank at 12360 Indian Rocks Road about 4 p.m. on Feb. 1 and passed a teller a note demanding money. He escaped before officers arrived, they said.

Witnesses have since identified Eckes as the robber, said Largo police Detective Randy Chaney.

Eckes was arrested Friday, minutes after authorities say he tried to rob the Fifth Third Bank at 10899 Park Blvd. in Seminole. The note he passed to the teller in that case read, "I have a gun. Do as I say or die," according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Bank employees complied, but he demanded all of the contents of the teller's drawer, which included an exploding dye pack, said sheriff's Sgt. Jim Bordner. A motorist saw Eckes running away as the dye pack exploded and began following his car while calling authorities.

Meanwhile, a sheriff's helicopter joined the pursuit.

Deputies stopped Eckes seven minutes later and arrested him in the 5700 block of Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park, Bordner said.

Eckes, whose criminal record includes charges of burglary, grand theft and trespassing, remained in the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday in lieu of $20,000 bail.