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Hatchet-gripping bank robber gets 100-month sentence

A Grants Pass man who pleaded guilty to robbing a bank armed with a hatchet was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to more than eight years in federal prison.

David Allen Whiting, 44, was sentenced by Judge Owen M. Panner to 100 months in federal prison for bank robbery. Whiting must also pay $1,849 in restitution, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas W. Fong.

On Feb. 19, Whiting entered an Umpqua Bank branch at 1670 Williams Highway in Grants Pass and said he wanted to open a new account. Whiting was taken into a small office where he presented a robbery note to the teller. When the teller asked whether Whiting was serious, Whiting gripped a hatchet in his backpack and said, "Yes, I am." Whiting took more than $1,800 and fled the bank, the prosecutor said.

Grants Pass police immediately distributed surveillance photos of the suspect to other banks as a safety precaution. An employee at a neighboring bank recognized the suspect as Whiting, who was one of its customers. Josephine County probation officers also confirmed Whiting's identity from the bank surveillance photos.

The next afternoon, Grants Pass police detectives found Whiting in Merlin and arrested him. Whiting confessed to committing the robbery and said he used the stolen money to buy methamphetamine and to pay drug debts. Whiting also said he planned to rob more banks had he not been caught. Whiting admitted he had gripped the hatchet during the robbery to make the teller think he had a gun. Officers recovered the hatchet, the bank robbery note and approximately $700 of the stolen money, Fong said.

Whiting has 23 prior felony convictions, including manufacture, delivery and possession of methamphetamine; burglary; forgery; theft; unauthorized use of a vehicle and identity theft.

Whiting pleaded guilty to the bank robbery charge on Aug. 31. He briefly apologized to Panner for his actions at Monday's sentencing, Fong said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.