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Bank robbery suspect booked and released twice in a week

A man arrested for robbing an Ashland bank Wednesday was back on the street Thursday — the second time he was released from the jail in a week.

David Dean Johnson, 41, described in jail records as an Ashland transient, allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo of $2,770 at about 11:25 a.m. Wednesday and was arrested six hours later. On Thursday just before noon, he was released from the Jackson County Jail because of overcrowding, records show.

The Friday before, Ashland police had arrested Johnson on warrants for failing to appear in November on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He'd been in jail for just under eight hours before being released because of overcrowding, according to jail records.

Ashland police Chief Tighe O'Meara said the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the jail, does a good job with the resources it has, but the lack of bed space can be frustrating. 

"It's frustrating that someone can rob a bank and be out the next day, but I don't fault the sheriff's department," O'Meara said. "We need a bigger jail, that's what we need."

Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler said that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the basement level of the jail will reopen April 24, bringing back 62 beds removed in November 2015 because of staffing concerns.

Staffing levels are at full capacity, and training is nearly complete, according to Sickler. Once the basement is reopened, Sickler said he plans to sit down with partner agencies to explore ideas for a new jail facility.

"I don't think anybody believes we'll be able to move into the future with our current jail," Sickler said. 

Johnson was released on his own recognizance with orders to appear in court April 18 on felony charges of third-degree robbery and first-degree theft related to Wednesday's robbery.

According to Corrections Sgt. Josh Aldrich with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Johnson was released because his risk to the community was determined to be relatively low. Johnson has been booked three times since November.

Johnson was booked on a charge of third-degree robbery, the least severe robbery charge, and no weapon was used in the crime, according to O'Meara.

"They don't look like arrests that were super severe," Aldrich said. "Given his current charge, he was one of the lower guys on our list."

Staff at the Wells Fargo branch couldn't comment on the robbery, though a receptionist reacted with a shocked, "Oh, my!" Friday upon hearing news that the suspect already was out of jail.

Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Unger wouldn't speak on specifics about Wednesday's robbery, but he said that robberies are disruptive.

"After a robbery takes place, we immediately call police and then we shut the branch down," allowing time for detectives and investigators to interview witnesses while technicians perform forensic tests, Unger said.

The investigation process typically takes a couple hours, but depending on severity can close the branch for the day, Unger said. A robbery also can take a toll on staff, who sometimes need counseling afterward.

"Sometimes these situations can escalate," Unger said. "Thankfully, no one was hurt this week in Ashland and we can move on."

The last bank robbery in Ashland was in June 2012, according to Ashland police Deputy Chief Warren Hensman.

In Wednesday's incident, Johnson allegedly presented a note to a teller warning her not to give him any "die" packs with the money, demanded cash from the neighboring teller, then fled on foot toward the Plaza with $2,770, according to O'Meara. Dye packs are a security measure that can be remotely triggered to spray red dye over the cash.

On Wednesday, Ashland police worked swiftly to apprehend Johnson. He was captured at the Cedarwood Inn about six hours after the robbery.

A police sergeant who'd had prior contact with Johnson recognized him on the bank surveillance footage, O'Meara said. He declined to say how they tracked Johnson to the motel.

"From there, it was good old-fashioned police work," O'Meara said.

While Jackson County Jail records list Johnson as a transient, Circuit Court records list a Portland address for him.

Court records show Johnson had a prior misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest in Jackson County. He was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2003. His most recent conviction was in Clackamas County, where he was convicted of felony first-degree theft and identity theft in 2013.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

David Dean Johnson