Friday, August 11, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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3 Rangers charged in Tacoma bank heist

Seattle Times staff reporter

The robbers apparently knew what they were doing.

As one kept track of the time, counting down the minutes, the others brandished automatic weapons to rob the tellers. All wore masks and what appeared to be body armor under their clothing.

When they were done — in under 2 ½ minutes — the men had made off with $54,000 from a Tacoma branch of Bank of America on Monday.

Viewing surveillance video of the robbery, an FBI agent would later note it was an "extremely well organized and executed robbery that was carried out with military-style precision and planning."

On Thursday, three members of the Army's elite Rangers unit at Fort Lewis were charged in federal court in connection with the robbery.

The suspects, Alex Blum, Luke Sommer and Chad Palmer, each hold the rank of private first class and are attached to "C" Company, 2nd battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, according to charging papers.

A Fort Lewis spokeswoman declined comment. "This is covered under civilian law enforcement and right now it's an FBI issue," she said.

Blum was arrested Wednesday in Colorado and appeared in court there Thursday, said Michael Dion, the assistant U.S. Attorney in Tacoma who is prosecuting the case.

He was arrested after a witness near the bank reported seeing the robbers arrive and depart in a silver Audi A4 sedan. The witness wrote down the license-plate number. The car is registered in Colorado to Blum and his father, according to charging papers. Palmer was arrested Thursday in Virginia and is to make a court appearance there today, Dion said.

Sommer remains at large. According to the charging papers, Capt. Clinton Fuller, commander of "C" Company, told FBI investigators that Sommer is on leave and traveling in British Columbia.

Two other individuals are alleged to have taken part in the robbery.

Fuller gave all 192 soldiers in "C" Company two weeks off beginning at noon on Monday, according to charging papers. The bank was robbed just a few hours later.

The robbers brandished semi-automatic weapons and rifles that appeared to be AK-47s, said Monte Shaide, the FBI agent leading the investigation.

Searches of the soldiers' rooms at Fort Lewis turned up money bands with Bank of America markings, cash and government-issued body armor, according to charging papers. Two AK-47s, eight loaded AK-47 magazines and $10,000 in cash were found in Sommer's room.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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