After a string of bank robberies in Southeast Texas, three in one week, police have arrested a man they say is responsible for at least two of the robberies.
According to a BPD press release, police obtained a federal arrest warrant for David Randall Terrell, 32, of Nederland for the Jan. 15 robbery of Mid-South bank at 1384 N. Main in Vidor and the Jan. 18 robbery of the BBVA Compass Bank at 2635 I-10 east in Beaumont.
Moments before Terrell was to be escorted to jail, Sgt. Rob Flores of BPD said cooperation with federal and other local law enforcement agencies led to the arrest.
“This was a joint operation between the Beaumont Police Department, the Vidor Police Department, the Galveston Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service,” Flores said, adding Terrell is a suspect in at least one other bank robbery at Woodforest Bank inside the Kroger grocery store on Dowlen Road in Beaumont.
“We are looking at him as a suspect in that and we’re hoping to obtain warrants for his arrest in that robbery as well,” Flores said.
Police did not comment on how much money the suspect made off with during each robbery, or why the man robbed at least two banks in one week, but officers did say getting away with a bank robbery is all but impossible.
In their almost 30 years of combined experience, police officers Doug Kibodeaux and Joe Ornelas said they’ve yet to see a fugitive bank robber remain a fugitive for very long.
“I haven’t seen one,” Ornelas said. “I’ve been a cop for 10 years. “They may not get caught by us, but they always get caught.”
Kibodeaux agreed, saying every bank robbery is a federal offense involving the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“When you get the big guns after you, you can’t do anything,” he said.
As he was escorted from the police station, reporters questioned Terrell as to why he robbed the banks.
“It was the circumstances,” Terrell replied.
When asked about his family, Terrell said, “They’re broken-hearted and hurt. I love them. I’m sorry.”
A mother’s plea
While the long arm of the law was bearing down on her son, David Randall Terrell’s mother Marie Armes took to Facebook: “My life is a Lifetime movie.”
Prior to his brief career as a bank robber, Terrell could most recently be seen selling cars. He said his day job was at a dealership in Southeast Texas.
On the day police allege Terrell committed his first local bank robbery, he joined his mother in social media banter, professing his affection for the woman who gave him life while at the same time apologizing for times where “I’m not being my best.”
Still, as Beaumont police officers were questioning Terrell to build a case against the accused bank robber, Mama Armes asked her Web following for support and privacy.
“As me and my family face an event not of our making, I would like to thank my friends and loved ones for their love and support,” she wrote. “Even though the events may be public, I would ask that you respect our privacy.”
Time runs out
His mother was seeking privacy, but Terrell seemed to be looking for someone to talk to. Just an hour before his capture, the accused bank robber took time out of his schedule to chat about his life on the run with a close friend. The online exchanges indicate that Terrell is responsible for the three bank robberies over the last week.
According to Terrell, he committed the robberies to pay a debt owed to the Aryan Brotherhood. Terrell also alleges that if he didn’t pay the money owed to the criminal outfit, amounting to $4,500, his life and that of his wife and unborn child were in peril.
Terrell’s first message asserts that he was doing “Nothing much” as the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 23, was winding down. Before the end of the day, however, Terrell would be in police custody.
“I’m just trying to get some business handled before I have to sit down and do (this) time,” Terrell added of his agenda for the day.
The accused then gave a reason for his delinquency, alluding to his reported Mid South Credit Union heist in Vidor: “I got in debt $4,500 to these Aryan Brothers because this dude did not pay his half of this big pile of pills I got fronted.” According to Terrell, the “other dude … took my half to go pay and never got there with the money. They threatened (my wife). I had to pay Monday by 7 — at 4:30 Monday I did not have the money so I went and did it.”
But a second bank robbery would be needed to get the funds Terrell needed, he said.
“These dudes are like you did it — do another one, you’re already hot,” he said of the plans to hit BBVA Compass Bank in Beaumont on Jan. 18.
“I went in there and hit it, and the teller gave me a fake stack,” he said. Then, according to Terrell’s own words, another plan was hatched: “I had to hit the third one to square us.”
Saturday, Jan. 19, the Woodforest Bank inside of Kroger was also hit. Terrell said he needed the money: “I’m in over my head over a f**king medicine – can you believe that?”
This is not Terrell’s first problem over “medicine” either. According to records at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Terrell is currently on parole for charges he was convicted of including using false identification to secure prescription medications and for being in possession of prescription medicine controlled substances. Terrell was released from prison in July 2012, and spent some time in a Beaumont halfway house.
“I feel sorry for him – he has a child in this world and another child coming,” Terrell’s online friend told The Examiner. “The honest truth is he’s a good guy. But he was broke; he owed everybody money. He had all these pressures on him to provide.
“He’s in a world of trouble now.”
Terrell’s friend said the accused bank robber has been keeping in touch online frequently even though he has been on the run from law enforcement for over a week.
“He was posting from Joel Olsteen Ministries on Monday,” he said. “He sounded desperate. His rant on Monday read like a suicide letter. It was sad.”
Over 1,000 words long, Terrell apologized for his actions and asked for support during this time of his life.
“I wanna say thanks for your quiet yet active support during a time which is difficult on both me and my family,” Terrell said. “I have not always made the best choices, and those of you who have helped me through my latest financial crisis, thanks a lot for having faith in me; also in your (patience) that those loans were not always paid back on time, as my period of trouble extended a lot longer than anticipated.”
“To get in the position I was in may have been poor choices, but most of the time when I needed your help, the money went to what I told you and I really was in a poor position,” he continued. “I cannot explain to you all right now what is going on, but it will all come out soon and you will understand a little bit. Nonetheless, I am wrong and scared and hope everyone knows how sorry I am and I would never intentionally hurt or scare anyone. I still have the heart of that young boy who coached Junction Youth Basketball, and won 38 gold and silver medals in track and cross country, state qualifier, and the hardest blind side hitter in Junction Football History, LOL.”
Terrell also asked a parting favor of his friends and family.
“I will be arrested and going to jail very soon, and when that happens I ask those of you that still care to write the district attorneys of Jefferson and Orange counties … asking them to have mercy, write to me first and I will explain to you what is going on and what really happened.
“P.S. If you hear from me I really, really need your help – no jokes or games I am on my way back to Beaumont to turn myself in, so keep that in mind.”
But Terrell did not turn himself in Monday.
“Everything was a lie,” Terrell’s friend exasperatedly confirmed, which he said made him question whether he ever did know the real David Terrell. “I would like to believe he was telling the truth when he said he did this because he was in trouble. But, at this point, I really don’t know.”
High risk, low reward
Beaumont-based FBI agent Ann Figueiras said as of August 2012, anyone who has robbed a bank in this area in the last decade has been indicted.
“Bank robbery is not a crime you want to commit,” Figueiras told The Examiner in August 2012. “No crime is worth committing, but the penalty for robbing a bank is severe. …This is not something you get away with. The solution rate for this area is 100 percent.”
Flores said the FBI is quite helpful to local law enforcement in apprehending bank robbery suspects.
“We have a very good working relationship. The Federal Bureau of Investigation actually opens up some investigative tools that we don’t have at the local level,” Flores said.
A bank robber faces twenty years in prison if they get caught. If someone is killed as the result of a bank robbery, even stiffer penalties could apply. If death results during the criminal episode, the statute provides for the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The FBI Bank Crime Statistics for 2011 indicated there were 5,014 bank robberies reported nationwide for the time period Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011, with 294 of those reported in Texas. A total of more than $38 million in cash was stolen during the 5,000-plus incidents. On average, bank robbers got away with about $7,500 per incident. FBI investigators identified 54 percent of persons involved in bank crimes in 2011. Of the 3,000-plus identified, FBI statistics indicate 37 percent were narcotics users.
Orange Police Department Captain Cliff Hargrave said drug use played a part in two bank robberies last year at Capital One Bank in Orange. Hargrave mentioned Elizabeth Hardin who robbed the bank June 21, 2012 and James Bergeron who committed his robbery on July 27, 2012.
“Both of our people suffered from substance abuse problems,” Hargrave said.
Kibodeaux warned that bank robbers who think they won’t be caught are deluding themselves.
“They think it’s easy to get in and get a lot of money out,” Kibodeaux said.
But considering the area’s high solution rate for bank robberies and the and the relatively small amount of cash they are able to get way with during the incidents, prospective criminals may want to think again before targeting banks – at least around here.
Clay Thorp, Jennifer Johnson, Sharon Brooks and Fred Davis contributed to this report.