fbpx

A password will be e-mailed to you.

Illustration by Rob Donnelly Bayside is a quiet suburb. The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a wooded sanctuary for eagles, owls and native trees, occupies some 15 percent of its land area. Canopied residential streets extend out from an east-west corridor called Fairy Chasm Road, and Lake Michigan’s waves lap against a rocky shoreline to the […]


Illustration by Rob Donnelly

Bayside is a quiet suburb. The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a wooded sanctuary for eagles, owls and native trees, occupies some 15 percent of its land area. Canopied residential streets extend out from an east-west corridor called Fairy Chasm Road, and Lake Michigan’s waves lap against a rocky shoreline to the east. 

But something about the commercial area at the intersection of West Brown Deer Road and North Port Washington Road, a crossing shared with Fox Point to the south, has attracted a string of high-profile bank robberies in recent years. The latest – recently charged in federal court – ended with a high-speed chase, and it took a joint operation by the FBI and police in Milwaukee and Glendale to arrest a young Milwaukee man, Christopher Jones, believed to be the 6-foot-tall robber who arrived at the U.S. Bank branch in Bayside on May 5.
The morning had started out cold and overcast, and there was nothing immediately suspicious about the man who stepped out of a silver Ford Taurus at about 9:30 a.m., nestled in a dark hooded sweatshirt. Next door, an office worker on a smoke break watched as the hooded figure walked into the bank, which exudes a “Colonial revival” style, more like someone’s house than a chunk of concrete with a drive-through lane.
Most of today’s bank robbers share almost none of the flamboyancy of a John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, and the U.S. Bank bandit carried out his crime simply. Walking in past a painting of Independence Hall, he dropped a plastic bag in front of a teller, demanded money, and waited as the employee filled the bag with cash from a drawer. Court records don’t mention a handgun, mask or disguise – only the hoodie – and once $1,718 had been amassed, the robber carried the bag back to the car like groceries.
The still-smoking office worker watched him drive away, toward I-43, where he led a Glendale police officer on a short chase, losing him only after taking the Keefe Avenue exit and diving into Milwaukee’s inner city. An investigation led by the FBI, which specializes in bank heists, later concluded that this fleeing bandit was Christopher Jones, a former juvenile offender with no record, as of yet, in adult court. Milwaukee detectives were the first to connect the hooded Jones and his silver Taurus to another such car, used during the April 21 robbery of a PNC Bank on Capitol Drive. The FBI has since alleged that on both occasions, Jones borrowed the silver four-door from a woman who lives on the North Side, although, as of early July, he had only been charged with fleecing the U.S. Bank branch in Bayside.
It’s tremendously rare for a bank to be robbed more than once in the same year, yet Bayside’s U.S. Bank has been victimized twice since 2012. Past bank robberies to have befallen the small commercial area include that of the Great Midwest Bank, in 2011, and a holdup and shootout at Cornerstone Bank, located a half-mile down Port Washington Road, in 2009. Bayside Police Chief Scott McConnell points to a cluster of five banks near the crossing with I-43, which provides easy access for both customers and thieves.
Since Jan. 9, the FBI has issued “Wanted” alerts describing more than 15 such holdups in the metro area, with most including an image from surveillance footage. In one photo, a man who reportedly stuffed his ill-gotten cash into a purse is seen wearing a dark wig, diamond stud earrings and a rhinestone-bedazzled sweatshirt. In another, a mummy-like man has wrapped his face with medical tape, and a third perp is seen in the fluorescent vest of a construction worker.
Are more of these heists connected? Both the offices of U.S. Attorney James Santelle and the Milwaukee division of the FBI declined to comment, but notes from a hearing in Jones’ case state that he’s “believed to be part of a bigger group of individuals who have been committing bank robberies since last fall.” The comments by a prosecutor also suggest a motive, at least in the U.S. Bank case. During calls from jail, Jones has reportedly said that he stole the cash “so his associates could be straight on their rent.” ■

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. 

Read the rest of August issue online here, or subscribe to Milwaukee Magazine.

RELATED  Behind Sheriff Clarke's on-and-off Homeland Security Post

Comments

comments