FBI confirms MT man is the "AK 47 Bandit," calls him "Public Ene - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

FBI confirms MT man is the "AK 47 Bandit," calls him "Public Enemy No. 1"

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Richard Gathercole was arrested in Nebraska (Dawson County Nebraska Jail) Richard Gathercole was arrested in Nebraska (Dawson County Nebraska Jail)

The Roundup man arrested for allegedly shooting at a Kansas State Highway Patrol trooper last wee was identified Tuesday by the FBI as the notorious AK-47 Bandit, who one agent called “Public Enemy Number 1.”

Federal authorities held a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday to confirm their belief that Richard Gathercole, 39, is the bank robber wanted in at least five states.

Gathercole was arrested in Nebraska last week after he allegedly fired several shots from an AK-47 rifle at a Kansas trooper during a traffic stop. According to a federal warrant, the trooper was attempting to stop Gathercole for obstructed license plates.

But Gathercole refused to stop and instead allegedly opened fire on the trooper without warning. The trooper drove into the ditch to avoid being killed. Gathercole fled the scene and later crashed the vehicle. He allegedly stole a pickup truck from a farmer and continued driving until his arrest in Nebraska.

But federal authorities stated Tuesday that the attempted murder of the Kansas trooper was not the first time Gathercole tried to kill law enforcement.

During a 2012 robbery at a bank in Chino, CA, the AK-47 Bandit – dressed in body armor and wearing a ski mask – fired his AK-47 rifle at a Chino police officer outside the bank.

The AK-47 Bandit also robbed banks in California, Washington State, Nebraska and Idaho and he unsuccessfully attempted to rob a bank in Idaho. The robberies happened in 2012 to 2015, according to the FBI.

"There was nothing about this bank series that was average,” said FBI Special Agent Stephen Woolery.  “Most stay within the same state and thankfully, we rarely see assault rifles and IEDs used in bank robberies. While we still have a significant bank robbery problem in California, we can all agree this case was priority from the start. The AK-47 Bandit was Public Enemy Number One."

Investigators would not comment on what specific details link Gathercole to the AK-47 Bandit.

But agents said the explosives and guns found in Gathercole’s Roundup residence, which authorities were alerted to by a jail call from Gathercole to his grandmother, were the same types of weapons used in the bank robberies.

Gathercole was arrested in Musselshell County for alleged drunk driving exactly one week before his arrest in Nebraska, but authorities said Gathercole was mostly compliant during that arrest.

"With his increasingly brazen and dangerous tendencies, we knew it was a matter of time before he acted again," said Chino Police Chief Karen Comstock.

San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos said the day of Gathercole’s arrest in Nebraska was a good day for his county.

“This individual wanted to kill a peace officer in this county and we're going to hold him accountable,” said Ramos. “He will never ever be able to target another peace officer as long as we keep this person in custody. Too many times these days people are second guessing officers involved in a shooting and this is what are officers are facing every day."

Ramos said he plans to file several charges against Gathercole, including attempted murder of a peace officer. Gathercole also faces a charge of attempted murder in Kansas.

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