Suspect shoots self after credit union robbery

We may never know for certain if the dead man police found holed-up in a Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood garage actually robbed the Advantis Credit Union. Read this, and learn why he’s still their prime suspect …

As SERT officers gathered around a house a half-mile to the north, the Advantis Credit Union was open for business after their morning robbery.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A man sporting a thin mustache carried a black briefcase with him, as he strode into the Advantis Credit Union at 3717 SE 17th Avenue, directly across from Portland General Electric’s SE Portland district offices in the Brooklyn neighborhood on December 19 at 10:45 a.m.

It soon became obvious that this fellow, described as being just under than 5’9″ tall, and in his early 30s – clad in a dark-colored baseball hat, blue-and-black rain jacket, and gloves – was there to make a withdrawal of the unauthorized and illegal kind.

He didn’t use a gun; he made his demands known by presenting a note to a credit union. The robber walked out the door with an undisclosed amount of cash stashed in his valise just moments later.

Joining the 20 Portland Police Bureau officers already on scene was about 50 SERT officers ordered into the neighborhood.

SERT Activated
Because the Federal Bureau of Investigation is in charge of all bank robbery investigations – and they frown on media attention during their on-site investigations – many such heists are only reported as a police blotter item.

But, as some 20 Portland Police Bureau officers set up a perimeter around a house in inner SE Portland – and ordered in their Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) officers – we took notice. They were dispatched to a detached garage at a house, north of the credit union across S.E. Powell and the Union Pacific tracks, on SE Woodward Street, between SE 15th and SE 16th Avenues.

With the property surrounded, police feel confident that the person they were seeking was still in the garage to which they’d tracked him earlier in the day.

Tear gas deployed
We learned from police records that at 11:23 a.m. police established that a Jeep Cherokee was associated with the holdup.

Hours later, an officer at the scene of the SERT callout told us that cops successfully tracked the alleged hold-up man from the credit union to the property they’d surrounded. “We’re confident the individual is still in the garage,” he said.

The officer suggested that we move from our position, downwind from the subject’s location. “We’re about to deploy tear gas,” he warned. We moved promptly.

Looking north on SE 16th Ave., the SERT officers prepare to deploy tear gas into a detached garage of a house.

“SERT deployed gas at 6:02 p.m.,” police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz told us. “When they entered the garage, they found a suspect dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

The question remains: Is the dead man found in the garage the credit union robber?

Our calls to the FBI have not been returned; Schmautz said SERT was being used to assist the FBI, and not to further a Police Bureau investigation, and that further information would have to come from the tight-lipped FBI. So, far, it hasn’t.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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