DAVENPORT — He entered a bank first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve, wearing bandages on his face and brandishing a semi-automatic handgun. His aim, Polk County detectives say, was to rob a Davenport bank at gunpoint.
His apparent motive: auto envy, deputies say.
By the end of the day, he was in a very different place: the Polk County Jail, after an employee at the bank managed to click a photo of the suspect’s truck and provide it to sheriff’s deputies, who were able to track down the robber less than five minutes after he fled the bank.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the employees at the Mid-Florida Credit Union in Davenport deserve credit for giving his deputies the tools they needed to track down the suspect.
“These brave Mid-Florida employees were able to overcome their terror after having just been robbed at gunpoint, and swiftly and accurately report the suspect description to law enforcement as soon as this crime occurred,” Judd said. “Thanks to their help and a quick perimeter, we were able to capture this armed robbery suspect just four minutes after he committed this crime.”
It was a satisfactory way to end the year, the sheriff said.
“Luckily, nobody was hurt, and now Russell Sanford will be celebrating the first day of the year in our jail,” Judd noted.
It was the teamwork and swift action by Mid-Florida Credit Union employees and Polk County Sheriff’s deputies that prevented Russell Lester Sanford Jr., 28, of 1209 Lakewood Road in Davenport, from successfully robbing the bank, the sheriff noted.
According to the arrest affidavit, around 9 a.m. on Dec. 31, Sanford entered the bank at 300 Ambersweet Way in Davenport. Employees would later report that he approached the bank manager and several tellers and demanded money, then flashed a loaded semi-automatic handgun.
What he didn’t know is that the bank manager and tellers had immediately triggered the alarm reporting the robbery in progress to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. After Sanford left the bank, the employees were able to give an exact description of the suspect and his vehicle to Polk deputies over the phone, describing him as a white male with brown hair, wearing band-aid bandages on his face, a black jacket, and a ball cap, and driving a red Jeep pickup truck.
“One of the tellers was also able to take a photo of the suspect truck as it fled,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case.
This information was sent out to area deputies through a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) advisory by dispatch, and at 9:04 a.m., Polk Deputy Sheriff Mark Dainty spotted the truck heading south on U.S. 27 near Calabay Park and Harrell Road.
Dainty, a five-year veteran of the agency currently assigned to the Northeast District patrol, noticed that the pickup truck was being driven by a man matching the description of the bank robbery suspect, so Dainty quickly turned around and conducted a traffic stop on the truck, then called for backup.
“Deputy Dainty ordered the driver of the truck to get out of the vehicle and lay facedown on the ground,” Eleazer noted. “The driver complied.”
Polk Deputy Sheriff Brian Bruchey responded to the scene as backup. He removed a loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun from Sanford’s waistband.
“The firearm had one round loaded in the chamber,” Eleazer noted. “A bag filled with money from the bank was located inside the truck.”
Eleazer said after being given a Miranda warning by deputies, Sanford admitted to driving his truck with a suspended license and to robbing the Davenport bank. He was charged with knowingly driving with a suspended license and armed robbery.
According to Eleazer, Sanford even confessed to a motive for the robbery: auto envy.
“Sanford told detectives that he wanted money because he was tired of seeing younger people driving newer vehicles than his, and that he couldn’t afford to pay his traffic citations,” Eleazer said. “He said he had been planning the bank robbery for two days.”
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