I graduated from the FBI Academy in January 1983, and was sent back to Norfolk, Virginia, the field office that recruited me, until I was transferred to my “real” first office assignment (Sacramento, CA) six months later. As was the custom at the time, I was placed on a violent crime squad to work bank robberies because the violation allowed new agents to learn how to put a case together and get used to the paper flow of FD-302s (Report of Interview), prosecutive reports, interagency communications, and arrest and search warrants we would prepare throughout our careers. I went out on a few bank crime scenes and interviews with my training agent, and on March 21, 1983 was assigned my first bank robbery (91A -New) investigation. I kept a copy of my FD-518 (Narrative Page for Prosecutive Report) and here’s an excerpt of what I wrote:
A male entered the Life Federal Savings and Loan Association on High Street in Portsmouth, VA at approximately 3:30 p.m. and robbed the institution of $2,458 in U.S. currency, including prerecorded monies. As the male entered the building, he pulled a stocking mask over his face, walked over to the victim teller, pulled out a silver chrome revolver (caliber unknown), and stated, “Put the money in the bag,” as he held out a brown paper bag. The victim teller give him all the cash contained in her top drawer, including a dye pack, even though the male warned her several times, “Don’t give me any of that funny money.” The male then left the bank, exiting to the left. The Identification Bureau, Portsmouth, Virginia Police Department conducted a crime scene immediately following the robbery. Thirteen latent fingerprint lifts were retained as evidence.
The report continues, but basically the dye pack and money were recovered, and the robber identified and arrested. His use of a weapon during the commission of his crime netted him a sentence of 20 years in prison, and my FBI career was on track for success (with a few bumpy rides along the way). The bank robbery squad secretary put together a little file of my first case and had me pose for a photo with a veteran agent on the squad, Earl T. and the dye-stained money. I’ve also included an image of the form use when there were multiple witnesses present at the bank crime scene. I doubt if it’s used anymore. The squad secretary told me I should collect similar mementos during my career. I’m so glad she did, because after I retired I gathered everything collected and created that scrapbook she suggested I make. I didn’t know how much collecting those memories and memorabilia would mean to me until it was over.
Robbing banks may sound old-fashioned, but it was a crime problem when I joined the FBI and it continues to be a crime problem today. Learn more about the FBI’s role in bank robbery investigations here.