A man suspected in a string of recent Bay Area bank robberies has been arrested, police said.
The so-called "Bearded Bandit" was taken into police custody Wednesday night in Brentwood after a person who recognized the suspect from news reports saw him in a Safeway parking lot earlier in the day, Brentwood Police Lt. Doug Silva said.
Police identified the suspect as Kenneth Ellis and have tied him to 11 robberies, one attempted robbery and three "casings," where he scoped out banks but didn't actually steal anything.
The Brentwood resident who spotted Ellis believes the suspect may have been casing the shopping center, which has two banks. James, the man who alerted police and did not provide his last name for this report, was standing in a Safeway checkout line when he first saw the man he believes is the "Bearded Bandit."
"I told the gal that looks like the guy who has been robbing the banks," James said. "He's looking at the light poles, or maybe he was looking in the sky. And I look up in the sky and there's nothing but blue sky. So I'm thinking to myself, is he looking for cameras?"
James immediately called 911 and Brentwood police arrested Ellis two hours later in a nearby residential neighborhood. Police were able to track him because James managed to get Ellis' license plate number.
The license plate number proved helpful because Ellis managed to shave his head and beard after James spotted him.
"We believe he did that to kind of conceal his identity because maybe he knew people were on to him," Concord Police Cpl. Chris Blakely said.
When asked what he thinks of helping nab the "Bearded Bandit," James said: "I just did my civil duty."
The FBI said Ellis is believed to have been involved in the following incidents:
Saturday, February 12, 2016
- Robbery of Chase Bank located at 3906 Washington Boulevard in Fremont
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
- Robbery of Chase Bank located at 5010 Elk Grove Boulevard in Elk Grove Robbery of Wells Fargo Bank located at 3518 Marconi Avenue in Sacramento
- Attempted robbery of Wells Fargo Bank located at 1235 Stratford Avenue in Dixon
Friday, March 4, 2016
- Casing of U.S. Bank located at 905 1st Street in Gilroy Robbery of Wells Fargo Bank located at 777 1st Street in Gilroy
Friday, March 11, 2016
- Robbery of Wells Fargo Bank located at 4599 Clayton Road in Concord
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
- Robbery of U.S. Bank located at 4440 Tassajara Road in Dublin
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
- Casing of Wells Fargo Bank located at 1055 S. Green Valley Road in Watsonville
- Casing of Wells Fargo Bank located at 17539 Vierra Canyon Road in Prunedale
- Robbery of U.S. Bank located at 905 1st Street in Gilroy
Thursday, March 17, 2016
- Robbery of U.S. Bank located at 46848 Mission Boulevard in Fremont
- Robbery of Wells Fargo Bank located at 6778 Bernal Avenue in Pleasanton
Monday, March 21, 2016
- Robbery of Chase Bank located at 3492 Mount Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette
- Robbery of Bank of Stockton located at 230 Main Street in Rio Vista