News and Press Releases

Group Used Automatic Weapons, Military Precision in August 2006 Tacoma Bank Robbery

December 16, 2008

CHAD PALMER, 22, of Norfolk, Virginia, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 11 years in prison and 5 years of supervised release for Armed Bank Robbery and Brandishing a machine gun during and in relation to a crime of violence. PALMER is one of five men convicted of the August 7, 2006, robbery of the Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way. PALMER and two other defendants were members of an elite Army Ranger Unit based at Fort Lewis. Two additional defendants are Canadians who traveled to Tacoma for the robbery. U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess imposed the sentence.

According to documents filed in the case, Army Ranger Luke E. Sommer recruited PALMER, Ranger Alex M. Blum, and Canadian nationals, Tigra J.A. Robertson and Nathan R. Dunmall, to participate in the robbery. At a meeting the day before the robbery, Sommer provided PALMER with a loaded fully automatic AK-47 machine gun. Sommer provided other conspirators with loaded semi-automatic hand guns. The men wore soft body armor to protect themselves in case of a shoot-out with police. Sommer proposed that PALMER throw a hand grenade at the police if the police arrived during the robbery, but PALMER rejected this suggestion. Sommer told PALMER 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. The men entered the bank in black masks and military garb. Over the 90 seconds of the robbery the men ordered the tellers to turn over their money and open the vault. The men escaped with more than $50,000. An alert bystander spotted the license plate of the car the men used for their escape and reported it to the police. The car was traced to Fort Lewis where evidence of the crime was uncovered at the mens’ barracks.

In their sentencing memo prosecutors outlined how this violent crime could have become even more serious writing, “Had a customer in the bank resisted, or law enforcement arrived, it is clear that these young men had the capacity and the intent to use their deadly firearms. There is no other reason for them to have worn body armor, brought a medical kit, or carried loaded weapons. It is because of luck, rather than their own planning, that Defendant and his coconspirators are not facing even longer sentences for even more serious crimes.”

PALMER pleaded guilty December 7, 2006. Sommer was sentenced last week to 24 years in prison. The remaining defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in early 2009.

The case was investigated by the FBI. 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.

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