Man known as ‘AK-47 Bandit’ had car full of evidence, police say
Published at | Updated at
REXBURG — Police have released more details on the arrest of the man authorities have dubbed as the “AK-47 Bandit.”
Richard Gathercole of Roundup, Montana, was arrested on June 20 in Nebraska. Local and federal law enforcement agencies all over the country say he’s the AK-47 Bandit, who robbed banks in California, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and Iowa while wearing tactical gear and armed with an AK-47.
In Idaho, the AK-47 Bandit robbed the East Idaho Credit Union in Rexburg on Nov. 7, 2012. He put employees in a safe, shut them inside and took off with an undisclosed amount of money. (Police at the time said he “cleaned out the bank.”)
In a news conference Wednesday, Rexburg police said Gathercole was arrested after a Kansas state trooper tried to stop a black Toyota Camry that was being driven by Gathercole. Police say Gathercole led the trooper on a pursuit. He shot at the trooper from inside the car. After the two exchanged gunfire, he was able to get away, police said.
This isn’t the first time authorities have said Gathercole shot at law enforcement officers. He shot and badly hurt a Chino, California, police officer during a robbery in February 2012. That officer is back on duty, Rexburg police said at the news conference.
A short time after the pursuit, a farmer in the area told police his pickup had been carjacked, and he said the person who stole his vehicle had a handgun.
Gathercole was later arrested without incident by the Lexington, Nebraska, Police Department, at a convenience store.
The Camry was found crashed into a ditch. Police found “several items of interest” inside, including an AK-47 with a drum magazine, a bullet-proof vest, a mask and gloves. The AK-47 was of special interest to officers in connection with the bank robberies.
Investigators from Rexburg; Chino, California; and the FBI obtained a warrant and searched Gathercole’s house in Roundup, which is about an hour from Billings, Montana.
“During the search, there were several pieces of evidence that we believe directly implicates Gathercole to the series of bank robberies, including the one in Rexburg,” Rexburg police wrote in a news release. “Located inside the residence were items that we believe matched items seen on surveillance video from the series of bank robberies. Those items have all been seized and are in custody by the FBI’s evidence collection team. Also inside the residence were located several homemade bombs that were removed from the residence by the Billings Bomb Squad and later detonated.”
Rexburg Police Lt. Ron Ball called his department’s investigation into the AK-47 Bandit “labor-intensive” and “expensive.” Rexburg officers were “ecstatic” when the man allegedly responsible for the AK-47 robberies was arrested.
“We were walking around high-fiving each other,” Ball said.
There are no court records of Gathercole being federally indicted as of Wednesday morning. The investigation is ongoing.