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2 bank robberies may be linked

MANATEE — It’s possible there’s one suspect for the two recent bank robberies, detectives said.

“Our investigation is still ongoing and we’re hoping someone can ID him from the photograph,” said Bradenton Police Department Detective James Curulla in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

On April 14, a man wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses robbed the First America Bank, 2811 Manatee Avenue West, with a note at about 11:30 p.m., according to Bradenton Police investigators.

On Wednesday, a man with a similar description robbed the First Bank, 995 Haben Boulevard, just before noon also using a note, according to Palmetto Police investigators.

In both cases the robbers were described as having a thin build and standing about 6 feet tall. The robber is also wearing a dark color baseball cap as well as sunglasses.

However, in this week’s bank robbery, the suspect made a point of averting the bank cameras.

From the photos released Thursday, there are no clear images of the bandit’s face. In the images, he makes a point of keeping his head down, detectives said.

It’s possible he cased the bank and knew where the cameras were before robbing it, according to authorities.

Palmetto Police Detective Ryan LaRowe said tellers at the Bradenton bank were not able to clearly identify the robber in the images from the Palmetto case.

“It’s not great quality. We’re still waiting on additional footage,” he said.

Evidence was sent to the lab from the scene.

In both cases the man fled the bank parking lots. He most likely had a car waiting nearby.

There have been 13 bank robberies in Manatee County this year, which includes two attempted robberies.

In 2007, there were 15 bank robberies in Manatee County. The number of cases doubled in 2008.

According to FBI bank robbery statistics, between July and September 2008 there were 1,358 bank robberies reported nationwide. More than half — 56 percent — of bank robbers used a note to rob a bank.

Detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying the robbers in the photos.

Anyone with any information about the robbery at First America Bank can contact Curulla at 932-9311. Tips of information on the robbery this week at First Bank can contact Palmetto Detective Chris Cavazos at 723-4587, ext. 124. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a cash reward, call Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.

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