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Bank-robbery suspect 'seemed happy as a lark'
Anchorage Daily News


December 05, 2006
Tuesday PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The botched bank robbery wasn't like the movies: A man at an Alaska USA branch waited his turn in line, chatting up an elderly lady. When it was time, he handed a piece of paper to the teller, got a wad of cash and left the lobby - as if he were simply making a withdrawal.




"He seemed happy as a lark," said witness Jeff Burnette, who knew something was amiss and followed the robber out of the building. As the man got into a minivan, Burnette said he looked him in the eye, pointed his finger and said, "You're busted."

He was. Authorities caught up with wanted fugitive Gilbert Eugene Dugaqua moments later, just blocks away. The FBI said they believe he's been robbing banks as often as some use ATMs and is the primary suspect in five such robberies in the past two weeks.

The heist began shortly after 1 p.m. when a man dressed in street clothes walked into the credit union. He waited with about 10 other customers and even had a conversation in a language other than English with an elderly lady in front of him, affectionately putting his arm around her at one point, said Burnette, who was there to pay his truck loan.

When a teller read the man's demand note, "her eyes turned huge," Burnette said. As she handed money to the robber, who didn't show a weapon, two other tellers abruptly left and Burnette heard what he thought was the faint sound of an alarm.

Burnette followed the man as he casually walked out and saw him get in a red Chevy Astro van with a woman at the wheel. As the driver pulled away, Burnette shouted at the man about being busted.

Police pulled the van over about 10 blocks away in front of the FBI building, having identified the vehicle by its license plate. The suspect got out and ran, and a half-dozen police chased him on foot through downtown. It all ended in the lobby of a Howard Johnson hotel.

Dugaqua was charged by federal authorities with bank robbery.

Investigators say Dugaqua had been recently released from a federal prison where he served a stretch for two 2001 bank robberies near Seattle. He had been living at an Anchorage halfway house. But a couple weeks ago, he walked away, they said.


Anchorage Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at mrholland(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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