A former Whidbey Island resident made a name for himself this summer.
They call him the Alabama Band Bandit.
King County prosecutors charged Michael R. Hardesty Jr. last week with first-degree robbery for a July 11 heist at a Whidbey Island Bank in Seattle. He’s also the suspect in four other bank robberies in three counties during the month of July, court documents show.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Hardesty will likely be charged in federal court next week.
Hardesty didn’t go into the banks guns a-blazing, but used what King County prosecutors called the “note job” technique, according to court documents. He passed demand notes to the tellers and followed up with verbal warnings.
Hardesty made a daring escape from Burlington police officers last week, but was later caught when he tried to swap cars in Snohomish County, according to court documents.
Island County Detective Rick Felici, who provided the FBI a tidbit of information during the hunt for Hardesty, explained that federal agents dubbed Hardesty the “Alabama Band Bandit” because he wore a T-shirt of the Southern rock band Alabama during one of the robberies.
Hardesty is well known to law enforcement on Whidbey, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2010, he was accused of selling meth out of a house next to the Sheriff’s Office in Coupeville, according to court records.
In 2005, Oak Harbor police locked down Oak Harbor Elementary after doing a traffic stop on Hardesty’s vehicle. He was wanted on felony drug warrants out of Bellingham.
Before that, he was charged with possessing methamphetamine in one case and burglary in another in which he crashed an Oak Harbor party and attacked his ex-girlfriend and the man she was with, court documents state.
In addition, Hardesty was convicted on a federal gun charge and is currently on federal probation, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Court documents show that Hardesty has lived in Coupeville, on South Whidbey and in Bellingham over the last decade.
The probable cause statement says that Hardesty “was deeply in the methamphetamine lifestyle in Island and Skagit counties.”
Hardesty is accused of robbing two banks in Lynnwood, one in Shoreline and two in Bellingham.
An anonymous tipster identified Hardesty as the Alabama Band Bandit after the FBI offered a $5,000 reward on the case and broadcast photos from bank surveillance video of the suspect and the getaway SUV.
A task force of detectives from King, Snohomish and Skagit counties, a U.S. Marshal’s Office task force and the FBI were all involved in the manhunt that started Aug. 12.
The story of Hardesty’s capture told in the probable cause statement is the stuff of movie scripts.
Five days after the search began, detectives learned from the bandit’s associates that he was motel-hopping with his 28-year-old girlfriend and her three young children. They learned that they were driving a 1999 Mercedes-Benz.
On Aug. 19, Burlington police officers located the car at a motel in the city. As the task force detectives and the U.S. Marshal’s Office were en route, Hardesty exited his room and spotted the marked police cars. He went back to his room, came out seconds later with the woman and three kids and headed to the car.
Hardesty abandoned the woman and kids, as police closed in, and drove away in the car.
“Despite being at gunpoint and being ordered to stop by Burlington PD officers, Hardesty drove off in the vehicle and was quickly lost in traffic,” the prosecutor wrote in the certification for determination of probable case. “Burlington PD officers could not locate him.”
Hardesty’s girlfriend told the detectives that she didn’t know he was robbing banks. She told them that he had a Cadillac that was parked at a gas station in south Snohomish County.
The officers put a stakeout on the car and saw Hardesty as he arrived a couple of hours later. He ran as police swooped in, but was caught with the help of a police dog that bit him.
Court documents say that Hardesty dropped a gun while he was running and left another at the motel, but he denied being armed and there was apparently no evidence that he was during the robberies.
Hardesty allegedly admitted to investigators that he committed the five bank robberies. He is being held in King County jail on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 4.