Chino police display surveillance photos of the AK-47 Bandit at press conference Wednesday at the Chino Police Department.
Chino police display surveillance photos of the AK-47 Bandit at press conference Wednesday at the Chino Police Department. (Melissa Pinion-Whitt/Staff Writer)

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CHINO - He comes armed with an AK-47.

He boasts about when he shot a police officer in Chino.

He even aimed his weapon at a child during a bank robbery.

But there's one more thing that leaves law enforcement concerned: It's not a matter of if, but when the AK-47 Bandit will strike next.

"This guy is a ticking time bomb about to go off again," said Bill Lewis, the assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles division.

Chino Police Chief Miles Pruitt and chiefs from Washington and Idaho on Wednesday joined FBI officials at the Chino Police Department to release details on their search for the man called the AK-47 Bandit.

Detectives said the man has robbed four banks and attempted to rob a fifth.

The case has generated $100,000 in rewards for the man's capture.

The FBI's behavioral-analysis unit is generating his profile.

Law-enforcement officials have also launched what they call an "aggressive ad campaign," including billboards featuring the robber's photo in California and other states.

"We hope by saturating the market, it's going to generate more leads," Lewis said.

The AK-47 Bandit began his robbery spree Feb. 29 at California Bank and Trust at 5455 Riverside Drive in Chino. He fired six shots at a Chino police officer after leaving the bank, striking the officer's moving patrol car four times. One of the bullets struck the officer.

Pruitt said the officer has since returned to light duty at the Police Department.

"It's been very traumatic for him and his family as well," he said.

Police suspect the man or an accomplice called 9-1-1 before the heist, reporting that there was a bomb on the south end of the city to lure officers away from the bank.

Authorities suspect the robber tried to rob Tri Counties Bank in Sacramento on March 9, then successfully robbed Bank of the West in Vacaville three days later.

The FBI said a Nissan Maxima, the same type of getaway car used in the Chino robbery, may have been used in both Northern California robberies. The vehicle has chrome rims, tinted windows and chrome parts on the body.

For nearly four months, the man appeared to have stopped his spree.

But then on July 6, a robber with an AK-47 hit a Chase bank in North Bend, Wash. He threatened to shoot tellers if they didn't give him cash quickly.

"When the suspect entered the bank, he aggressively aimed the assault rifle at a child, simply because the child made a noise," said North Bend Police Chief Mark Toner.

He carried bills out of the bank by hand, since he didn't have a bag.

In that heist, he used a dirty, reddish- orange Jeep Patriot or Liberty as a getaway vehicle.

The FBI said another robbery occurred Nov. 7 at the East Idaho Credit Union in Rexburg, Idaho. The robber, armed with an assault rifle, ordered employees and customers - including children - into the vault.

"At one time, the man made notice that he had shot an officer before and at one time he was an officer," said Shane Truman, the chief of the Rexburg Police Department.

Authorities say the robber drove away in a Nissan Maxima.

Lewis said investigators are looking into the possibility that the robber may have had ties to law enforcement. They say he may have some sort of tactical training either in law enforcement or the military, based on his handling of the rifle.

In some of the incidents, the robber wore a blue bulletproof vest with the word "SHERIFF" across the chest in bright yellow. Surveillance video also showed he wore a dark, short-sleeve collared shirt under the vest, blue pants and a black full-face ski mask.

Despite the robber waiting several months between heists, authorities suspect it's only a matter of time before he robs another bank.

"This individual is becoming increasingly violent," Pruitt said.

Anyone with information on this case can call 855-9-BANDIT or email information to bandit@chinopd.org.

melissa.pinion-whitt@inlandnewspapers.com

909-386-3878