Phoenix police arrested twin brothers on Wednesday in connection with a series of Valley bank robberies, including one committed under police surveillance.
The arrest appears to solve the case of the so-called "High-Jump Bandit," whose prolific robberies prompted authorities to seek help from the media in late July. Alan Michael Bain and Neal Martin Bain, both 51, were booked into jail on July 30 -- immediately after robbing an Ahwatukee bank.
The robberies are believed to have begun on May 21 at the BMO Harris Bank at 4835 East Warner Road, according to a bulletin Phoenix police issued to the media on July 22. The spree continued with four other heists through July 15.
The nickname came from the robber's penchant for jumping the counter and threatening tellers up-close. As surveillance-camera photos showed, cops were on the lookout for a bald white man in his late 40s, about six-foot, 200 pounds. Police soon received several anonymous tips that the man in the photos was Alan Michael Bain, according to a federal complaint filed on Friday.
A quick check of driver's license records showed that Bain did, indeed, resemble the wanted bank robber. Police soon learned that Bain had a twin brother, Neal, and that the siblings shared a common interest in crime. Alan Bain had been convicted for bank robbery and armed bank robbery in 1989, 1993 and 2000, and is on probation until 2017. Neal Bain had convictions for bank robbery in 1989 and armed bank robbery in 1996.
Detectives began "visual surveillance" of Alan Bain starting on July 29. Like something out of a movie, they struck pay dirt the very next day, according to court records.
On Wednesday, cops trailed Alan Bain as he drove from his Chandler residence to the EZ Inn motel on Northwest Grand Avenue in Phoenix, where he picked up his brother. The two drove around for a while in the southeast Valley before heading back into Phoenix. Just after noon, Alan Bain parked his car in a strip-mall parking lot next to the Washington Federal bank at 4302 East Ray Road. A few minutes later, Neal Bain entered the bank, the complaint says.
Neal Bain reportedly "pushed male bank employee A.K. to the employee-only area located behind the teller line. A.K. did not comply with the demands, therefore Neal told all of the employees not to move and placed his hand over his waistband area, simulating that he was armed with a weapon."
The robber turned to another employee and said he wanted her $100 bills from a bottom drawer. Neal Bain fled with the cash on foot through the strip mall.
The federal complaint implies that detectives were staking out the bank -- perhaps even wondering nervously who might be getting shot inside. However, Sergeant Trent Crump, Phoenix police spokesman, tells New Times that's not what really occurred.
"We have a number of investigative techniques we can use to observe somebody," Crump says. "It doesn't mean we have to keep eyes on a suspect."
We can only imagine he means some sort of tracking device was used; Crump would not elaborate. But he acknowledges the stakeout was "action-packed." Cops knew the place had been robbed after the getaway car moved from the location and a detective went inside the bank, Crump says.
Just before 1 p.m., police stopped the brothers' car in the area of 2400 East Washington Street in Phoenix and took the pair into custody. Loose currency littered the vehicle's passenger side. Neal Bain had $15,000 in cash tucked in his shirt and inside his pants pockets.
Booking photographs of the pair are being withheld as detectives further their investigation over the next couple of days, Crump says.
Crump didn't know whether or not the twins are identical or fraternal. But the federal complaint notes that the brothers share a "striking resemblance." A "distinct visible difference" between them -- and one that can be seen in surveillance photographs -- is that Neal Bain's right ear is "abnormal."
The roles each brother played in the separate crimes, or whether both brothers were involved in every robbery, is still being sorted out. With suspects who are twins, Crump says, "it makes it much more difficult for the investigators to determine who did what."
For now, the feds are charging the brothers only with last week's robbery.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.