He is a skinny white man in his 20s or early 30s, with dark black hair, a widow’s peak and sideburns. He’s short – less than five foot five – with stubble and a tattoo on his left biceps partially covered by a Star Wars T-shirt.
He wouldn’t look out of place in the trendiest spots in New York’s Williamsburg or San Francisco’s Mission neighborhoods – which is why, after his second brazen bank heist, authorities in southern California dubbed him “the Hipster Bandit”.
Law enforcement officials are still searching for America’s most fashionable bank robber.
The Hipster Bandit’s fourth heist in eight months happened less than a month ago, on 9 January, when he walked into the large Von grocery store in a business park near San Diego, California. He turned right, toward where Wells Fargo bank has an in-store branch. At the front of the queue, he quietly passed a note to the teller, demanding cash.
The teller complied, handing him all the money she had on hand. The whole thing happened so fast that many of the grocery store’s employees did not even realize a robbery had taken place.
Now, a multi-agency manhunt is under way in southern California to catch the Hipster Bandit. So far he has not displayed a weapon, according to the FBI, which is coordinating the search along with the San Diego police department, the San Diego county sheriff’s department and the La Mesa police department, but is to be considered armed and dangerous.
“He seems to like to rob the in-store banks,” said Darrell Foxworth, a special agent at the FBI’s San Diego field office. “All the banks he’s robbed have been inside grocery stores.” His modus operandi, Foxworth said, is the same each time – a note, quietly passed to the teller, with a demand for cash and a threat. “After he gets the money, he usually leaves the bank without incident,” Foxworth added.
The moniker Hipster Bandit was invented by the detectives investigating the case, Foxworth said. The FBI likes to affix nicknames to bank robbers because it helps the public identify them – such as “the Mole Bandit”, an Asian man with a mole on his upper lip who is still on the run after a series of bank robberies in 2014.
The highest-quality photos of him were taken during the 9 January robbery – when he wore the Star Wars shirt. But in stills from surveillance from his other robberies, his dress code can be clearly seen. In one, he is wearing a red shirt, buttoned up to the collar, and a pair of sunglasses. In another, he is wearing a red T-shirt with a white patterned logo. After one heist, he is reported to have escaped in a blue SUV.
Other than that, not much is known about him. “He’s not trying to draw attention, and often the only people who know what’s going on are the teller – and the Hipster Bandit,” Foxworth said. “When he conducts his robberies he’s doing a very discreet pattern, as opposed to someone who goes in and yelling and screaming and ordering people on the floor. He’s not that demonstrative.”
Lily, who requested that her last name not be used, was working at the flower stall by the Wells Fargo branch inside another grocery store, on Scripps Poway Parkway in San Diego. She was working just feet from the tellers when the Hipster Bandit robbed the branch in November, but she had no idea what was going on until afterwards. “They turned the lights off [and] told me they got robbed,” she said.
If you have any information about this suspect, you’re urged to contact the FBI at (858) 320-1800 or San Diego Crime Stoppers at (888) 540-8477.