FORMER ARMY RANGER PLEADS GUILTY TO TACOMA BANK ROBBERY
Plea Agreement Mandates 24 year Prison Sentence for Army Ranger from Canada
LUKE E. SOMMER, 21, of Peachland, British Columbia, Canada, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery, Armed Bank Robbery, Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, and Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device – Hand Grenade. Under the terms of his plea agreement, SOMMER must be sentenced to 24 years in prison or either he or prosecutors can withdraw from the agreement. SOMMER reached the agreement with federal prosecutors earlier this month and agreed to be extradited from Canada.
According to documents filed in the case, SOMMER recruited two other U.S. Army Rangers, Chad Palmer and Alex Blum, and Canadian nationals, Tigra J.A. Robertson and Nathan R. Dunmall to participate in the August 7, 2006, robbery of the Bank of America on South Tacoma Way. SOMMER recruited Blum to drive the getaway car. SOMMER discussed his plans at length with a sixth defendant, Scott A. 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. 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. SOMMER’s pistol had a laser sight, and SOMMER fixed the sight on the tellers’ bodies during the robbery. 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.
SOMMER had already left for his parent’s home in Peachland, Canada. He was arrested there and put on house arrest pending extradition to the United States. SOMMER disappeared from his home, and was later arrested in Richmond, BC. Originally SOMMER claimed the robbery was to attract attention to his claims of witnessing war crimes in Iraq. SOMMER never provided any proof of his claims. In early May he agreed to be extradited and plead guilty.
Sentencing in front of U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess is set for August 22, 2008.
All of the other defendants in the case have entered guilty pleas. Chad Palmer and Alex Blum are scheduled to be sentenced on June 19, 2008. Tigra Robertson and Scott Byrne are scheduled to be sentenced on June 20, 2008. Nathan Dunmall is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27, 2008.
The case was investigated by the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, the Tacoma Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Department of Justice assisted with the apprehension and extradition of the defendants.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael 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.