Man suspected as “Desperate Bandit” arrested

INDIO – A 47-year-old man who may be the ”Desperate Bandit,” blamed for nine bank robberies in Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties, was behind bars today.

Michael Patrick Downing of Chino Hills was stopped on westbound Interstate 10 between Washington and Cook streets in a white Toyota Corolla used in a robbery of a 1st Bank branch in Indio, Ben Guitron of the Indio Police Department said.

Downing is suspected of robbing the 1st Bank branch in the 82-900 block of Avenue 42. The robbery was reported about 11:35 a.m. Friday.

The robber handed the teller a demand note and said he had a handgun, Guitron said. After getting an undisclosed sum, the robber fled in a white Toyota Corolla, Guitron said.

An officer working Black Friday patrol spotted the westbound Corolla on the freeway near Monroe Street about 11:50 a.m., Guitron said, adding that Downing was arrested in a traffic stop made between Washington and Cook streets.

A 2-liter bottle containing a clear liquid and rigged with wiring to look like a bomb was found in the Toyota, but a sheriff’s bomb squad determined it was inert, Guitron said. Police notified the FBI about Downing’s arrest and learned he might be the robber agents dubbed the ”Desperate Bandit,” he said.

Downing ”admitted he had done several bank robberies until he was stopped today by the Indio police officers,” Guitron said.

Downing was being booked at the Indio jail on suspicion of robbery late Friday, Guitron said.

Robberies linked to the Desperate Bandit include one on Sept. 14 at the Bank of America branch on Green River Road in Corona and at U.S. Bank and Bank of the West branches in Anaheim, Chino, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia and Tustin.

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