‘Bank Bomber’ arrested, two hours and two blocks from Eastport Plaza crime scene

Also, see how the police tracked down another outer East Portland suspected bank robber who hit a Gateway area bank on New Year’s Eve day. It’s two bank robbery stories in one …

Customers and shopkeepers at Eastport Plaza are cleared, as bomb squad team members investigate a backpack said to hold explosives used to rob a bank.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The man didn’t have a car, but on January 10, about 9:20 a.m., he wandered up to the drive-in teller window at the U.S. Bank branch at Eastport Plaza on SE 82nd Avenue to make an unauthorized withdrawal – on foot: The 5-ft-8, 180 lb man demanded money from the teller.

This US Bank branch, and the surrounding area, is closed off…as police investigate the unusual bank robbery attempt.

“The suspect claimed to have a bomb in a backpack,” explained Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Sgt. Peter Simpson. “After obtaining an undisclosed amount of money, the suspect left the backpack next to the drive-up window, and fled the area on foot.”

Within minutes, traffic on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses was shut down from SE Holgate Boulevard to SE Boise Street, and the south end of the shopping center was evacuated, as members of the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit (MEDU) rolled up to investigate the backpack.

Members with the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit create a strategy for investigating the backpack said to contain a bomb.

Meanwhile, officers were keeping a sharp lookout for the suspect – described as a thin white male in his 50s.

The backpack never got into the MEDU’s spherical containment unit; using their remote-control investigative unit, they determined that the backpack contained a hoax device, and rendered it safe, Simpson later reported.

An officer in one of Portland’s new police cruisers speeds to the north end of Eastport Plaza.

Two hours after the robbery, police take into custody the man they suspect of the crime.

Not long after the muffled bang of the MEDU’s “disruptor” charge, disabling the backpack left behind by the would-be robber, a half-dozen patrol cars raced to the north edge of Eastport Plaza on SE Francis Street.

“It looks like we’ve captured the suspect,” reported a sergeant, as officers drove the suspect back to the bank for positive identification.

50-year-old Tom L. Cloud remains in custody, pending charges of bank robbery, records show. MCDC photo

“Portland Police Bureau Robbery detectives have booked 50-year-old Tom Cloud into the Multnomah County Jail,” Simpson announced, “Cloud is on a Federal ‘hold,’ with Bank Robbery charges pending.”

New Year’s Eve Gateway bank robbery suspect nabbed

This Key Bank branch – in the Gateway Shopping Center, near the MAX Light Rail Station – was again robbed. This time, it happened on New Year’s Eve.

Also in the same week, police identified a suspect in the December 31 robbery of the Gateway area Key Bank branch in the Gateway Shopping Center on NE 102nd Avenue.

“During the investigation, officers from East Precinct spoke with Loss-Prevention staff at the Gateway Fred Meyer store, and reviewed surveillance video,” Simpson told East Portland News.

A Fred Meyer loss-prevention crew member at recognized the robbery suspect from prior encounters at Fred Meyer, Simpson added. “This information led directly to the identification of the robbery suspect, and subsequent charges.”

Police charge this man, 48-year-old Ronald Lee Johnson, with bank robbery, in connection with the New Year’s Eve Key Bank heist.

48-year-old Ronald Lee Johnson didn’t have to be captured, Simpson added; he was already in custody at the Multnomah County Jail at the time the charges were issued.

“This case highlights the positive working relationship the Portland Police Bureau maintains with the various Loss-Prevention officers and staff throughout the City of Portland,” commented PPB Robbery Detective Brett Hawkinson.

It appears Johnson was already in jail, MCDC records show, on drug-related charges. And he now remains in custody on a US Marshall hold.

2012 David F.Ashton ~ East Portland News

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