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Mission worker arrested for Washington state bank robberies

GRANTS PASS — Jake VanderStoel and Kevin Maloney had no reason to believe a man wanted by the FBI as the "Roscoe Bandit" was working at the Gospel Rescue Mission's recycling center on Northwest Foundry Street. 

But 55-year-old William Mitchell, who was wanted in connection with a series of bank robberies in Washington, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon by Grants Pass police, who were alerted by the FBI in Washington.

"He was in here sorting clothes all day Monday," said VanderStoel, manager at the recycling center, a few blocks west of the main facility. "We don't ask a lot of questions."

 Maloney, director of operations, worked with Mitchell on Wednesday on a recycling route.

 They returned to the warehouse shortly before 3 p.m. when "Suddenly I'm being told, 'Get out of the way,'" Maloney said.

Grants Pass police and FBI agents from Medford loaded Mitchell, who put up no resistance, into an unmarked car. He remains in federal custody, according to Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle.

Mitchell is accused by the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force in the robberies of HomeStreet Bank and Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Seattle in July, and Timberland Bank in Olympia, Wash.,  on Oct. 30, according to a press release from the FBI in Seattle.

On Friday he allegedly struck again, robbing Numerica Credit Union in Spokane, the FBI said. The nickname "Roscoe Bandit" was an apparent reference to the long-barreled revolver, or "Roscoe," used by the robber.

By Sunday, Mitchell was 600 miles away in Grants Pass, verified by Brian Bouteller, men's coordinator at the mission, a shelter for men and women.

"He always carried himself well at the mission," Bouteller said. "He worked hard, didn't cause any problems while he was here."

A federal arrest warrant was issued Wednesday morning, after Spokane police identified Mitchell using surveillance footage, the FBI release said.

The FBI did not say how it determined Mitchell might have fled to Grants Pass, but local police were alerted to Mitchell and his vehicle, said Lt. Dennis Ward of the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety.

Ward was on the scene Wednesday, along with Detective Archie Lidey and Deputy Chief Jim Hamilton, while another handful of officers participated in the search, as did a police dog.

The recycling center is a few blocks west of the actual mission facility.

"We received information from the FBI that he might be in that area (of the mission) so we set up in that area for a couple of hours before we located him," Ward said. "We had some photos of him from prior incidents. That makes it a lot easier."

Ward said to his knowledge Mitchell did not try to hit any local banks.

"We had our people near banks downtown in case that happened," Ward said.

"It's really a credit to them being alert," Dietrich said. "The last we knew we were looking for him in Spokane."

The FBI said Mitchell has an identification card of unknown authenticity from Mississippi, but wasn't concrete on his home residence.

According to Maloney, "He said he had a girlfriend and they were going back to Mississippi."

Reach Grants Pass Daily Courier reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com

Grants Pass Detective Ryan Brown, right, takes William Mitchell, the alleged ìRoscoe Bandit,î into custody Wednesday afternoon at the Gospel Rescue Missionís recycling center on Northwest Foundry. Photo by TIMOTHY BULLARD/Daily Courier Street.