A suspect in a Dana Point bank robbery Friday who was found dead at the end of a SWAT standoff following a pursuit to Rancho Santa Margarita may be the “Leatherface Bandit” linked to three previous heists in Orange County, officials said.
The other robberies occurred March 7 at a OneWest Bank in Corona del Mar, March 8 at a Citibank in Costa Mesa and April 9 at an Opus Bank in Yorba Linda, according to the FBI.
“That individual appears to have worn the same disguise the suspect wore today,” said FBI Special Agent Christopher Gicking.
“Based on the [modus operandi] and description, we believe it’s very possibly the same individual,” said FBI spokeswoman Laure Eimiller.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that it was working with the FBI’s Los Angeles field office to identify the suspect.
The “Leatherface Bandit” generally wore a realistic mask depicting an elderly man and brandished a handgun during the crimes, officials said. All but the Yorba Linda heist were described as “takeover” robberies, in which the man robbed multiple tellers at each bank.
In the Dana Point robbery, as well as in the Corona del Mar hold-up, the robber was seen using a bicycle to get away.
Friday’s robbery occurred shortly before 4 p.m. at Pacific Western Bank at 34180 Pacific Coast Highway, Eimiller said.
After obtaining an undetermined amount of cash, the robber rode away on a bicycle, officials said. He then stashed the bike in the bed of a pickup and drove off.
“We had a witness who gave a description of the getaway vehicle,” Gicking said. Orange County sheriff’s deputies found the truck and pursued it to Rancho Santa Margarita.
The driver briefly eluded deputies during the chase but was found a short time later, sheriff’s Capt. Jared Dahl said. The pursuit resumed until the truck crashed into a parked car while making a U-turn and came to a stop at about 5 p.m. at Avenida de las Banderas and Avenida Empresa, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
A SWAT team tried to communicate with the suspect, police said. Authorities announced he was found dead about 45 minutes later. He was believed to have shot himself, Gicking said.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing. We are working with @FBILosAngeles and the Bank Robbery Apprehension Team to identify the suspect. There is a possibility he may be related to three other bank robberies in OC. The intersection at Banderas and Empresa remains closed— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) April 20, 2019
Officials summoned a bomb squad to inspect the truck “out of an abundance of caution,” Gicking said.
Coincidentally, the FBI issued a “wanted” flier for the Leatherface Bandit via Twitter at about 5 p.m. Friday as the standoff was underway, officials said.
Daily Pilot staff contributed to this report.