Alpine Bank in Montrose was robbed on June 24 by a man with a gun who got away with $6,514 in cash, according to court records. The American National Bank in Rifle was held up by an armed gunman on May 27, where the robber got away with $9,500, and on July 29, Surface Creek Bank in Cedaredge was robbed of more than $6,000, leading to the suspects’ captured later in the day.
Several law enforcement agencies collaborated in looking into the robberies that led to the suspects’ arrests, said Detective Michael Watson of the Montrose Police Department, who led the investigation which has now been taken over by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Because the FBI is on the case, Watson couldn’t say much beyond what was revealed in an arrest affidavit he filed in Montrose County courts.
At the end of the two-patrol-car chase, when the two suspects' maroon 1999 Ford pickup pulled over in Grand Junction, the affidavit states that their pockets were “bulging out” with cash, with some “bait money” that had been inserted in the money stolen from the Cedaredge bank found as well, in Smith’s front pocket. A woman passenger, who had some of the stolen money in her purse, was with the duo when they were pulled over by officers on Tropicana Ave. in Grand Junction, but Watson said she was not charged.
“She was not involved,” he said. “She was given the money, but she did not know it had come from the bank,” he said.
Both men are being held in the Montrose County jail with a $500,000 cash bond.
Their capture was not a simple affair, but both men later confessed to the crimes and have cooperated with authorities. When Ashley walked into the Cedaredge bank at 10:38 a.m. on July 29, he showed a pistol to the clerk and demanded money, according to the arrest affidavit. The clerk gave him the money, including the “bait bills,” which Ashley stuffed into a backpack before running out of the bank. Witnesses told authorities the robber got into a green Chevrolet sports car and headed toward Grand Mesa, north on state Highway 65. An alert went out through Delta/Montrose dispatch, but the car disappeared.
Luckily for law enforcement, David Jones, a photographer with KKCO-TV Channel 11, heard the dispatch and started driving south toward Cedaredge, spotting the car in Mesa at about 12:35 p.m. Jones told authorities he saw a green Camero pull over at the Mesa Store, where two men got out and got into a maroon truck driven by a woman.
After running the plates for the truck, Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies learned it was registered to Brandon Smith, and they staked out both his current address on Darlene Court and a previous address on Epps Drive.
A deputy waited at the Darlene Court address in a marked car and the truck appeared at 1:24 p.m. But the deputy stated that when the driver spotted him, he sped off, going west on F Road. The deputy followed, but did not turn on his lights and siren until he had backup. By then the truck was speeding down Mohave Drive, but pulled over after turning onto Tropicana Drive.
At first, Smith insisted that the money was for his rent, the deputy stated in the report. When all the money was collected, it came to $6,619. After interviewing both Smith and Ashley, authorities decided that the men were responsible for all three robberies. The suspects also said that the guns used in the robberies were either a BB pistol or an air soft pistol, but according to the arrest affidavit, the victims didn’t know the difference.
“…In all of these cases, the tellers that were involved all believed that the firearms were real, and in the manner in which the firearms were presented to the tellers, all of the tellers were in fear of being killed,” the report states. Watson said the men may face federal charges.
Dave Joly, spokesman for the FBI’s Rocky Mountain Task Force, said he didn’t know if either Ashley or Smith had previous run-ins with the law, or what had led them to rob the banks.
“The charges haven’t been submitted and it is still under investigation,” he said. Prosecution for the case will be handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Joly said, which will also handle future press releases.
Jeffrey Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said there is no time frame at present for how the case will proceed.
“They remain in state custody and have not been charged with a federal crime,” he said. “There is no time frame; it is a continuing investigation. Once that is complete we will meet with the DA and consider our next step.”