Trial set for ‘AK 47 Bandit’ suspected of robbing local credit union
IDAHO FALLS — A federal court trial for the Montana man dubbed by authorities as the “AK-47 Bandit” has been set in Lincoln, Nebraska.
At a Tuesday court hearing, Richard Lee Gathercole said he does not want to plead guilty to four federal charges including robbery. The court ordered a 10-day trial before United States District Judge Richard G. Kopf beginning March 25.
Gathercole is believed to have robbed banks in California, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and Iowa while wearing tactical gear and armed with an AK-47. He allegedly robbed the First Nebraska Bank in Nebraska City, Nebraska on Aug. 22, 2014. According to court documents, Gathercole stole $90,258 in the heist.
Police suspect the AK-47 Bandit robbed East Idaho Credit Union in Rexburg while carrying an AK-47 style rifle on Nov. 7, 2012. He’s accused of putting employees in a safe, shutting them inside and leaving with money.
Gathercole was arrested in June 2017 by the Kansas law enforcement. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper saw a black Toyota Camry speed past with a dark cover on the license plate. A traffic stop was initiated as the driver, later identified as Gathercole, continued to drive. The trooper noticed Gathercole appeared to be reaching for something.
“Trooper Baker then saw the driver lifting what appeared to be a rifle, moved the rifle across his body and pointed it at the window at him,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Gathercole allegedly began to fire the weapon toward the patrol vehicle. The trooper swerved into a ditch to avoid being shot. The trooper continued to follow the driver before eventually stopping and taking cover behind his patrol car. As gunfire continued to come from Gathercole, the trooper returned fire as the Toyota Camry took off.
That evening, Gathercole is accused of pointing a gun at the driver of a Ford F-150 saying he was wanted by the government and cops. The driver stopped the truck and turned it over to Gathercole, according to court documents. After the carjacking, authorities found the Toyota Camry in a ditch near the location of the F-150.
Eventually, Gathercole was detained and arrested by a Dawson County Sheriff’s deputy as he walked into a truck stop.
The June 2017 incident wasn’t the first time authorities 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 a news conference after the arrest.
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.”
Gathercole is being held in custody as he poses a serious flight risk if released, according to court documents.