Bank robbery suspect captured after crime spree

Wild afternoon filled with crashes, carjackings, high-speed pursuit

By Mark Bowder , Craig Brown , Eric Florip , Ray Legendre and Laura McVicker

Published:

Updated: June 20, 2012, 10:25 PM

 
photoThis damaged Toyota Sequoia, shown at the scene of a reported carjacking at 404 E. 15th St., was believe to be the vehicle driven by a suspected bank robber Wednesday.

(/The Columbian)

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A Hazel Dell bank robbery turned into a major crime spree Wednesday afternoon, engulfing local police agencies in high-speed chases through Hazel Dell, Vancouver and Salmon Creek before ending 90 minutes later in North Portland.

The suspected robber, identified as Brent J. Woodall of Vancouver, was taken into custody about 4:25 p.m. by Portland police after he was pinned between a police cruiser and a minivan.

Late Wednesday night, authorities were trying to determine if a second Clark County bank robbery was committed by the suspect.

“A very dangerous situation,” said Sgt. Fred Neiman of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. “We are glad to get this fellow in custody.”

Wednesday was Woodall’s 29th birthday.

Wednesday evening at 10:20 p.m., Woodall had not yet been booked in the Multnomah County Jail. Portland police Lt. Robert King said Woodall would face charges in both Oregon and Washington and would likely need to be extradited to Clark County.

The crime spree included the bank robbery, two high-speed pursuits, a traffic accident and four attempted carjackings, only one of which was successful. It wasn’t immediately clear late Wednesday whether Woodall was connected to a second bank robbery that occurred in the Van Mall neighborhood within a half-hour of the Hazel Dell heist.

In a twist reminiscent of Southern California, a KATU-TV news helicopter picked up the last chase and broadcast it live.

The incidents began just before 3 p.m. A subject described as a white man, 6 feet, 5 inches, with curly medium-length hair, entered and robbed Riverview Community Bank at Northeast Highway 99 and 88th Street. The suspect left with no money, Neiman said, as he dropped a bag loaded with red dye in the parking lot. He was reported to be driving a black Toyota Sequoia SUV. Responding officers encountered the vehicle and a pursuit ensued.

The suspected robber led authorities southbound along Interstate 5 toward Oregon, before changing course and taking Highway 14 eastbound. Along the way, the suspect swerved to miss police spike strips.

The suspect’s Toyota was last seen driving northbound on Lieser Road around 3:20 p.m., authorities said.

By this time, officers had the name of the suspect and his address, which is in a neighborhood near Washington State University Vancouver. Officers headed toward the house and soon spotted the Toyota Sequoia. Officers, at times, lost track of the suspect.

As of 3:40 p.m., the chase resumed northbound on Northeast 50th Avenue near 199th Street. Authorities reported the suspect nearly hit another vehicle head-on when he crossed on a double yellow line. Speeds were reported at 75 to 80 mph. Ten to 15 officers attempted to stop the car in Clark County.

Later, the chase was terminated in the vicinity of the Salmon Creek Safeway store on Highway 99.

A few moments later, a motorist reported the Sequoia nearly ran him off the road on Highway 99.

Next, the suspect in the Sequoia unsuccessfully attempted to carjack a vehicle at the Arco station at 39th and Main streets.

The next carjacking attempt, at 404 E. 15th St., was successful. The Sequoia was abandoned at that address with significant front-end damage on the driver’s side, and the man allegedly stole a black Ford Focus hatchback. Vancouver police later interviewed two people at the scene. From there, the chase was on across the Interstate 5 Bridge and into Portland, where the driver nearly rammed a police car after he briefly stopped at Marine Drive.

As Portland police joined the long chase, the Focus was pursued through North Portland neighborhoods to another stop in front of a home on Berkeley Street, where the suspect got out of the car.

The chase continued after the man re-entered the Focus. Police later tried to ram his car, but missed.

Moments before he was apprehended, the suspect got out of the car and tried twice to get inside two vehicles that attempted to drive past. The last vehicle was a minivan carrying a family of five on the way to play basketball.

Woodall was taken into custody at gunpoint at 4:25 p.m. near the intersection of North Kellogg Street and Burlington Avenue, near the St. Johns Bridge, after he was pinned between a police cruiser and a minivan. As Portland police officers confronted him, guns raised, Woodall dropped face-down on the ground.

A money bag and a Taser were spotted near a patrol car.

It was not clear if the suspect was connected to the second bank robbery, which occurred at the Bank of America, 3308 N.E. Auto Mall Drive. That robbery occurred after the Riverview robbery and during the time police lost track of the suspect. Money was found at the North Portland spot where the suspect was arrested, giving an indication the two robberies might have been the work of the same suspect.

The suspect in the Bank of America robbery was described as a tall white man with long, curly brown hair and wearing a black shirt — a description similar to Woodall.

“They do sound similar, but there is no indication right now they are connected,” said Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp.

Kapp said detectives will review surveillance tapes and follow up their investigation to determine whether the robberies are connected.

Columbian reporters Eric Florip and reporter Andrea Damewood contributed to this story.