News and Press Releases

Defendant Fired Shot into Ceiling in First Robbery

March 3, 2010

MICHAEL B. ARMSTRONG, 25, of Tacoma, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 12 years in prison and five years of supervised release, along with $7,473 in restitution, for two counts of Armed Bank Robbery and one count of Possession of a Firearm and Discharging it During a Crime of Violence. ARMSTRONG pleaded guilty December 2, 2009, admitting that he robbed two Tacoma, Washington banks. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton stressed the seriousness of the crime and the “emotional scars” suffered by bank employees.

According to the plea agreement, on December 5, 2008, ARMSTRONG walked into Key Bank on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, and fired one shot into the ceiling. ARMSTRONG ordered all the people in the bank to lie on the floor, and told one teller to fill his backpack with money. He began counting the seconds out loud, urging the teller to hurry. When ARMSTRONG left the bank he was followed by a witness who had seen him enter the bank in a ski mask. ARMSTRONG removed the ski mask and dropped it – the witness retrieved the mask, and when he lost ARMSTRONG in traffic, the witness returned to the bank and gave it to police.

The second bank robbery occurred about a month later, on January 8, 2009. ARMSTRONG entered the Columbia Bank branch on South 84th Street in Tacoma, and ordered everyone inside to lie on the floor. ARMSTRONG brandished a gun, and told a teller to fill his backpack with $20,000. ARMSTRONG told the teller he had 30 seconds to hand over the money. ARMSTRONG took the money and fled. Police were able to locate a man matching the robber’s description at a mini-mart in unincorporated Pierce County. ARMSTRONG was arrested and the unloaded gun and all the stolen money was recovered. ARMSTRONG told police that he used the money from the first robbery to pay bills and buy Christmas gifts, and robbed a bank the second time when the money ran out.

As part of the plea agreement, both the defense and the prosecution agreed to recommend a prison term of no less than 12 years and no more than 13 years in prison, but the court would be free to impose any sentence it deemed appropriate. In his sentencing memo, Assistant United States Attorney Gregory A. Gruber asked that ARMSTRONG be sentenced to 13 years.

The case was investigated by the Tacoma Police Department and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gregory A. Gruber.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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