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Ashland bank becomes fourth robbed in five-week span

ASHLAND ' An armed man wearing a motorcycle helmet robbed a downtown Ashland bank Christmas Eve, then escaped into the Ashland watershed forest on a dirt bike.

Police don't know whether the robbery is connected to one last month in which a robber also wore a motorcycle helmet to obscure his face.

A man entered the U.S. Bank branch at 30 N. Second St., showed a black handgun and demanded cash at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, said Ashland police Sgt. Teresa Selby.

She said that witnesses reported seeing a man speed up Gresham Street on a blue dirt bike. Police tracked the suspect along Morton Street to its southernmost end, where he drove past a locked gate into the Ashland watershed.

In the area beyond the gate, police found a blue Yamaha motorcycle with dragon graphics believed to be the one on which the robber fled, Selby said. The bike had been reported stolen from Outback Welding in the 3100 block of E. Main Street Dec. 11.

Talent police and their dog trained in tracking helped Ashland police search the area. They didn't find the robber.

There are trails all over, Selby said. He could go anywhere from up there in the watershed.

The robber is described as a white man in his 20s or early 30s. He's about 5 feet 7 inches tall with a slight build. During the robbery he wore a full-face black motorcycle helmet, a black jacket and blue jeans. He carried a black nylon bag.

Tuesday's robbery was the fourth bank robbery in the Rogue Valley in recent weeks.

At 11:25 a.m. Nov. 19, a white man in his 30s with very short hair robbed a Washington Mutual bank branch on Ashland's Main Street without showing a gun. About 2 p.m. on the same day, a robber wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet robbed a Klamath First Federal branch at the corner of Ashland Street and Walker Avenue with a black handgun.

On Nov. 26, a white man with short dark hair, brown eyes and no facial hair robbed a U.S. Bank branch at 1242 Court St. in Medford.

Police suspect that the robberies of the Ashland Washington Mutual and the Medford U.S. Bank are related. They also have linked the suspect to a robbery in Bend Dec. 11.

Selby said that police don't know whether the Christmas Eve robbery was linked to any of the other recent bank robberies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping police investigate all the bank robberies.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4459, or e-mail .