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After close shave, 'Bearded Bandit' suspect is busted

After close shave, 'Bearded Bandit' suspect is busted
The "Bearded Bandit" was reportedly caught without his famous whiskers Wednesday night in Northern California. The FBI said he has robbed 11 banks since February. (FBI)

A serial bank robbery suspect in Northern California known as the "Bearded Bandit" was caught by police Wednesday night after a passerby spotted him shopping for razors, local media reported.

Kenneth Ellis was arrested without most of his well-groomed whiskers and a freshly shaved head after a short pursuit through Brentwood that ended in a car crash, KTVU reported.

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A witness recognized the bearded suspect inside a local Safeway and alerted police, Brentwood Police Lt. Doug Silva said. The person reported seeing Ellis get into his car, but by the time police arrived, he was gone, though his car remained, Silva said.

According to KTVU, Ellis realized he may have been spotted, so he went to a nearby CVS. Police waited by the car, and their patience paid off. More than two hours later, Ellis emerged, Silva said.

"When we saw him return, he had a shaved head and shaved his beard into a goatee," Silva said. "He was obviously trying to change his appearance."

The bandit had amassed more than $28,000 in a string of robberies since mid-February, the Associated Press reported.

According to the FBI, the bandit has robbed 11 banks, tried to rob a 12th and has cased seven others.

He was known for sporting a well-groomed beard and wearing a variety of sunglasses, hats and layered shirts with dark pants. He was described as white and between 5 feet 10 and 6 feet tall and between 25 and 35 years old with brown hair.

He typically presented a demand note to the bank teller out of a black merchant's bag and left the scene without incident. He never threatened to use a weapon or revealed one, the FBI said.

The first known robbery was at a Chase Bank on Feb. 12 in Fremont, followed by two robberies on March 1. He also robbed two banks in one day on March 17 and on Monday, the FBI said.

Ellis was caught just hours after the FBI broadcast the "Bearded Bandit" moniker along with pictures pulled from bank security cameras.

Brentwood police officials said they would transfer Ellis to Concord police, who have an open case tied to one of the robberies.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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