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‘Big Top Bandit’ bank robbery suspect was former coach at Kirkland schools

The FBI arrested two Renton men on Monday believed to be the “Big Top Bandits,” involved in a series of takeover-style robberies throughout King County.

One of the suspects, 23-year-old Luther Ray Leonard, was an assistant boys basketball coach for the junior varsity team at Finn Hill Middle School this past school year. He was also a volunteer coach for the Juanita High School football team, volunteering with the team last fall, said Lake Washington School District spokesperson Kathryn Reith.

The Seattle Safe Streets Task Force arrested on probable cause Leonard and Jeffery Lamont Pool, 47, of Wichita Falls, Texas at their current residence in Renton.

The two were arrested as task force investigators executed a search warrant at the location. Investigators soon after executed a second search warrant at another residence in Newcastle, near the intersection of Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway Southeast.

Investigators nicknamed the subjects the “Big Top Bandits” because of their clothing, which included a variety of hats worn at every robbery.

In the latest bank robbery, in Newcastle, two subjects entered the bank. In previous bank robberies, one of two subjects is seen on surveillance video entering the bank.

In each robbery, the subject(s) displayed handguns and pointed them at customers or employees. During the May 22 robbery in Seattle, one subject fired a gunshot inside the bank. During the June 8 robbery in Burien, one subject struck a bank teller in the face.

Along with the King County crimes, Pool was also wanted on several arrest warrants out of Texas, for a series of armed robberies in that state and violation of his state parole in 2011.

The task force continues to investigate the bank robberies attributed to the “Big Top Bandits”:

• Jan. 16 – Key Bank, Newcastle

• Feb. 28 – Key Bank, Rainier Avenue Branch, Seattle

• May 22 – Washington Federal Bank, Rainier Avenue Branch, Seattle

• June 8 – Sterling Savings Bank, Burien

• July 1 – Bank of America, Newcastle

Information submitted by a Washington’s Most Wanted viewer to Crime Stoppers helped confirm a lead that the task force was following, which resulted in the arrests.

The investigation includes FBI special agents, and detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office, Auburn Police Department, and Seattle Police Department. The Seattle Safe Streets Task Force is a combined effort of more than a half dozen agencies through deputized task force officers.

 

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