For those of you following me on Facebook, this will come as no surprise: For the past couple of weeks, I've been documenting an alarming rise (no stats to back this up, sorry) of bizarre robberies. No, you say. How could that be the case? Well, hold onto your hats, folks, for a tour of my world, one where neither age, intelligence or lack thereof, nor costume preference thwarts a robber's steely determination. As proof, I'd like to introduce the oxygen-totting, Darth Vader, underwear, bouquet, and clown pants bandits.
On July 9th, 63-year-old Arthur Williams (above left) walked into a Madison Avenue menswear shop with a cane in one hand and a gun in the other. But what the clerk noticed was that Williams was pulling something behind him, an oxygen tank hooked up to clear tubes anchored just under Williams' nose. Poor guy. He must have to be really broke to turn to crime in his condition. Maybe not. It turned out that Williams wasn't some hard up senior citizen, maybe in the Medicare donut hole who needed money to buy food and pay for prescriptions, but a hardened criminal with a long rap sheet nearing the end of a three-state crime spree.
In prison, where he'd spent the bulk of his life, he was known to "praise the lord" during sermons as an ad hock preacher. His promise to the parole board when they let him out: to help troubled youngsters. Guess things didn't turn out that way. Williams died two days after the menswear robbery in a Maryland police chase.
Where's Luke Skywalker when you need him? I'm sure the Chase Bank in Long Island, New York, wondered just that when a caped man wearing a Darth Vader headpiece walked in carrying a gun on July 22nd. At first some in the bank thought it was a prank, but the joke was on them when the guy - assuming it was a guy - walked out with a fistful of bills. Of course, he wasn't much of a method actor. I didn't hear he had the breathing down, and his outfit pretty much fell apart below the waist, where he wore camouflage pants.
Edward Pemberton, the bouquet bandit, allegedly envisioned himself as a kinder, gentler criminal, one who softened the blow of his six bank heists since 2008 by gifting the victims with plants and flowers. "The flowers show I'm a good person," the flower delivery man who has a long record told the NY Daily News. "I'm a good person." He also characterized the flowers as a way of thanking the tellers, "who were giving me something that didn't belong to them." It was this admiral trait of his that led to his capture, when his fingerprints were lifted off a couple of the bouquets. Pictured at right with an unidentified woman, Pemberton viewed the robbery world differently than the Underwear Bandit above: "If you're financially strapped, you can't go stick up McDonald's. You've gotta go where the money is."
Perhaps none can top 48-year-old Dennis Hawkins of North Braddock, PA, who allegedly robbed a bank on July 24th wearing a blond wig, fake breasts under a sweater, and clown pants. Try to be inconspicuous much? If news reports are right, Hawkins didn't plan terribly well. Along with wearing a costume that made an escape unlikely, he forgot about the first item covered in How to Be a Bank Robber 101 classes: you need a getaway car! Instead, he commandeered a woman's car. Unfortunately for him, the driver hopped out, keys in hand, leaving him stranded. A half-woman/half-clown target with red dye all over from the exploding pack tucked in with the bills, he was a highly visible target, easily picked up by police. I'm surprised Hawkins didn't at least shave his beard to try to pull it off.
I'm not even going to get into the woman wearing a cat mask who robbed a Manhattan shoe store. Anyone care to clue us in on what the heck is going on?