A state robbery charge was dismissed Tuesday against a man suspected of being the "Desperate Bandit" blamed for nine bank heists, including one in Temecula.
Michael Patrick Downing, 47, of Chino Hills, had faced a felony charge stemming from a Nov. 23 holdup at a FirstBank branch in Indio. Riverside County prosecutors asked that the charge be dismissed, however, because Downing has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly carrying out nine bank robberies, including the Indio heist, according to John Hall of the District Attorney's Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will handle the prosecution in federal court.
Along with the other heists, Downing is suspected in connection with the Oct. 15 robbery at Pacific Trust Bank located at 27425 Ynez Road in Temecula. He made off with an undisclosed amount of cash from the Temecula bank after handing a teller a demand note and stating he had a weapon with him, according to Sgt. Jon Wade of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
A Feb. 27 federal grand jury indictment charges Downing with the nine robberies that occurred between Aug. 8 and Nov. 23. The heists took place at U.S. Bank branches in Chino, Anaheim and Placentia, Bank of the West branches in Fullerton, Tustin and La Habra, a Bank of America branch in Corona, as well as the PacTrust Bank robbery in Temecula and the FirstBank heist in Indio, according to the indictment.
The indictment accuses Downing of stealing $2,150 from the Indio bank. The other eight robberies total more than $13,000, according to the indictment.
The FBI dubbed the robber the “Desperate Bandit” because some of his demand notes claimed he was armed and desperate.
Downing was finally stopped on Nov. 23 when officers pulled him over on westbound Interstate 10. He was driving a Toyota Corolla he allegedly used to make his getaway in the same-day robbery at FirstBank in Indio, according to Ben Guitron of the Indio Police Department. A search of the car turned up a two-liter bottle containing clear liquid rigged with wiring to look like a bomb; a sheriff's bomb squad determined it was inert, Guitron said.
Downing "admitted he had done several bank robberies," Guitron said.
Police notified the FBI about Downing's arrest and learned he might be the robber agents had dubbed the "Desperate Bandit," Guitron said.
Downing is in federal custody, according to court records. --City News Service contributed to this report.