TWO DEFENDANTS IN ARMY RANGER BANK ROBBERY CASE PLEAD GUILTY
Group Used Automatic Weapons, Military Precision to Rob Tacoma Bank
ALEX M. BLUM, 19, of Colorado, and SCOTT A. BYRNE, 32, of California, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today in connection with the August 7, 2006 robbery of the Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way. BLUM and BYRNE were members of an elite Army Ranger Unit based at Fort Lewis. One other Army Ranger, Chad Palmer, has already pleaded guilty in connection with the robbery. BLUM pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery and Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence. BYRNE pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery. BLUM is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess on June 8, 2007 and BYRNE is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, 2007.
According to documents filed in the case, Army Ranger Luke E. Sommer recruited Palmer, BLUM, and Canadian nationals, Tigra J.A. Robertson and Nathan R. Dunmall to participate in the robbery. Sommer recruited BLUM to drive the getaway car. Sommer discussed his plans at length with BYRNE who was a “consultant” on the robbery. At a meeting the day before the robbery, Sommer provided Palmer and Dunmall with loaded fully automatic AK-47 machine guns. Sommer and Robertson carried loaded semi-automatic hand guns. The men wore soft body armor to protect themselves in case of a shoot-out with police and carried hundreds of rounds of extra ammunition . Sommer told BYRNE and others that he wanted to use the proceeds of the robbery to start a crime family to rival the Hell’s Angels in British Columbia, Canada.
The robbery occurred at 5:15 PM on August 7, 2006. BLUM drove the armed men to the bank, and saw their high powered weapons. The men entered the bank in black masks and military garb. Over the two minutes of the robbery the men ordered the tellers to turn over their money and open the vault. Sommer told the bank employees that they would be “wasted” if they did not comply. The men escaped with more than $50,000. An alert bystander spotted the license plate of BLUM’s car and reported it to the police. The car was traced to Fort Lewis where evidence of the crime was uncovered at the mens’ barracks.
While BYRNE was not physically present at the robbery, he advised Sommer to abandon his original plan to rob a casino, and identified the bank as a potential target. BYRNE later drove Sommer, Robertson and Dunmall to the bus station where they caught a bus to Canada. While driving to the bus station, Sommer told BYRNE that robbing the bank was “more thrilling than combat” and said he could not have organized the robbery without BYRNE’s help.
Tigra J.A. Robertson is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on Monday, March 12, 2007. Defendants Luke E. Sommer and Nathan R. Dunmall are fighting extradition from Canada.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Pierce County Violent Crimes Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and the Tacoma Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mike Dion and Jill Otake.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.