Only three days after his last holdup, a daring bank robber hit for the seventh time in Ventura County since June.
This time, however, a dye packet hidden in the cash exploded over the robber's hands and clothes, making authorities hopeful of apprehending him.
The packet blew up as the man was leaving World Savings and Loan Assn., 11 E. Ponderosa Drive in Camarillo, about 2:40 p.m. Several people saw him running frantically through Las Posas Plaza shopping center with a cloud of purple smoke billowing over his head, said Gary Auer, a supervisor for the FBI's Ventura office.
"One of the witnesses said it was all through the shopping center," Auer said. "The hope is that people will have observed or will observe him with all this purple stuff on him."
The man, who is believed to be responsible for the county's biggest series of robberies this year, was described as a white male between 25 and 30 with strawberry blond hair. On Monday, he wore a bright green baseball cap, a beige and green striped shirt and tan pants, Auer said.
He was last seen in a white truck heading north on the Ventura Freeway, said Lt. Joe Funchess of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. The amount stolen was not disclosed.
World Savings is only minutes from Santa Barbara Savings and Loan, 425 Arneill Road, which the same man is suspected of robbing on Friday.
Authorities believe he also is responsible for robberies Aug. 9 at the Bank of A. Levy, 1830 Victoria Ave., Oxnard; Aug. 3 at the World Savings and Loan Assn., 2704 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura; July 28 at First Nationwide Bank, 1055 S. Oxnard Blvd., Oxnard; July 26 at Security Pacific National Bank, 9493 Telephone Road, Ventura; and June 21 at Wells Fargo Bank, 101 S. Chestnut Lane, Ventura, Auer said.
In each robbery the man showed a note written on a Manila envelope that warned that he had a weapon, Auer said. None of the tellers have seen a weapon, however.
While banks have deterrents ranging from hidden cameras to explosives, most tellers are instructed to give a robber money if he claims to have a gun, said Bill McAleer, chairman of the board at Ventura County National Bank.
"Every bank in the U.S. has the same instructions: 'Don't argue. Give him the money,' " McAleer said.
Additionally, tellers are trained in "recognition and recollection" and are counseled to leave the room and write down everything they can remember about the robber, he said.
The dye will probably make it much easier for authorities to find the robber, McAleer said, because it remains on the skin for "a very long time."
"Clorox won't get it off. Soap and water won't get it off. Steel wool won't get it off," he said. The dye also stains the cash, making it risky or impossible to spend.
Monday's robbery marked the 21st at a Ventura County financial institution this year. Last year at this time the FBI reported 36 robberies, and 76 for the entire 12 months, Auer said.