Suspect nabbed in crime spree
by Lori Caldwell email@example.com February 19, 2012 5:04PM
Beaver Bernard Russell, 47, of Benton Harbor, Mich., suspected of at least six bank robberies in five states, including Lansing and Munster, as well as a series of purse snatchings and an armed robbery in northwest Indiana, was captured last week after robbing the last of the banks in Kentucky, according to the FBI. | FBI provided photo
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:04AM
Bernard Beaver Russell. Dino Brown. Irvin Dino Brown. Beaver Gywn. Tommie Russell. Muhammed Russell.
He has lots of aliases. And lots of crimes to go with them.
Russell, 47, a native of Benton Harbor, Mich., was apprehended in Kentucky last week after a high-speed car chase.
He soon admitted to details of his most recent crime spree that began in mid-December and included bank robberies in Munster and Lansing, Ill., and robbery/assaults of three women, two in Gary and one in Hobart.
“He had a good run,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert Ramsey said.
Russell is on parole until March in Michigan for receiving stolen property worth more than $20,000. He has a similar conviction in Porter County, court records show.
Russell is also a registered sex offender in Michigan.
He was indicted in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Thursday on two counts, for bank robberies in Munster and South Bend.
Additional charges are expected to be filed in the five states Russell hit during his winter crime spree.
Ramsey credits good communication — of the high-tech and low-tech varieties — that allowed law enforcement agencies to share crucial information leading to Russell’s arrest.
After Fifth Third Bank in Munster was robbed Jan. 12, local FBI agents noted similarities to a robbery earlier that week of a US Bank branch in Lansing.
The website bandittracker.com allowed area agents to link these crimes to others.
At the same time Ramsey’s agents were attending local detective meetings and learning that a suspect with a similar physical description — and the same white car — had robbed two women in the parking garage at the Majestic Star casino and a young employee as she left Westfield Southlake Mall.
The 22-year-old Portage woman hung on to her purse as the robber grabbed the strap, dragging her through the lot until the purse strap broke.
She suffered scrapes and bruises and has a scar on her hand she suspects will always be there to remind her of those scary minutes.
“When I heard he was arrested, it was a great Valentine’s Day present,” she said.
The victim, despite the late hour and her struggle to maintain possession of her purse, managed to get a good look at the robber and provided police with an excellent description of her attacker.
An artist’s sketch of the robber is nearly identical to some of Russell’s mug shots, investigators say.
“I was in shock when it happened. It’s something you read about in the papers, but you don’t think it will happen to you,” the victim told the Post-Tribune.
She missed some work after the trauma, but returned to find that security in the mall area was tighter.
“Now when we go out by ourselves after 6 (p.m.), we have to call security to escort us to our cars,” she said.
The mall robbery attempt was Jan. 2.
The next afternoon, a 59-year-old Tolleston woman was robbed by a man driving a white car through the Buffington Harbor parking garage. She broke out his taillight with her cane, but he ran her over, knocking her down and injuring her leg.
On Dec. 18, a Hammond woman was robbed by a man driving a white car who grabbed her purse as she walked through the casino parking lot.
The victim has suffered additional brain-related maladies since the assault, police say.
Detective Sgt. Larry Robertson is handling both those cases and expects to present his evidence to Lake County prosecutors soon.
Video surveillance from the garage robberies showed the same suspect.
“Now we had them all linked in,” Ramsey said.
The FBI was about to post national alerts for Russell when he allegedly robbed a bank in Florence, Ky., and fled with a GPS tracker in the money bag.
After a high-speed chase through southern Indiana and Ohio and back to Kentucky, he was arrested when his car — the same white car — crashed.
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