"He seemed very intoxicated,” said Adrienne Goldston, the receptionist at Access Medical Center on Camino Real in Carlsbad. A man had stumbled in the front door of the center shortly after 3:00 p.m. on November 1. The receptionist said the thin, mustachioed man looked unkempt, and she could smell alcohol on his breath.
“He held up a piece of paper to me,” Goldston remembered, when she testified at a preliminary hearing in the Vista courthouse 17 days later.
At first he held the paper with the wrong side toward her, but when he turned it around she read “ROBBERY” and “MONEY BAG PLEASE.”
The receptionist told him, “We don’t keep money on hand.” The would-be robber asked her, “Why?” and the woman didn’t know what to answer, so she shrugged. “He seemed somewhat confused,” she said. She wondered if he had meant to enter the business next door, Comerica Bank.
The man stumbled out the front door and got into a bright red PT Cruiser. The alert receptionist wrote down the car’s make, model, and license-plate number and phoned authorities.
A short time later, at about 3:15 p.m., a thin, gray-haired man entered the Bank of America two blocks north of the medical center.
Teller Michelle Felix waved at the man to come to her counter. When he got to her window, he handed her a note and a small, gray cloth bag. He told her, “Don’t say anything.” Felix looked at the note, and the first word she saw on it was “ROBBERY.” The man said he had a gun. When he spoke, his words were slurred, she remembered. The teller walked away from her station and told other employees what was happening, while the man tapped and tapped on the window barrier at her station. Felix said the man eventually left the bank at “a slow walk.”
About a quarter mile north of the Bank of America, across Highway 78 in Oceanside, is a Wells Fargo. It was about 3:30 p.m. when teller Marilyn Bray saw a thin, gray-haired man enter the bank. “He looked lost,” she testified at the preliminary hearing. The teller asked if she could help him, and the man approached her counter. “He smelled like he needed a shower,” Bray told the superior court judge.
“This is a robbery,” the man said.
“I think I was stunned, and he repeated it,” Bray testified.
She pushed an alarm button at her counter. Then she wrote a note to her manager, who had come to stand next to the teller, and they both faced the man.
Bray said she took a little cash from her drawer and laid it on top of the counter.
“I gave him a very small amount of money, and he said, ‘Oh, come on!’”
She put more cash on the counter.
“It wasn’t enough,” she remembered. “He said, ‘You can do better than that.’”
It was the first of the month, and the robber said he needed money to pay the rent.
The robber also told her, Bray testified, that “He was that bandit.”
The bank manager later told Carlsbad police that the robber claimed to be the Geezer Bandit.
Bray told the grizzled man that she would have to “go to the back” to get more money, and this provoked him to shout, “Shut the fuck up!” Then he lifted his shirt to show her a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants, and he said, “If you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to start shooting people!”
When the frightened teller saw the dark gray handle of a gun, she became immobile, she said. “I was kind of in shock and nervous.” The manager reached into the cash drawer and gave the man “a roll of 20s,” the teller testified.
The robber left. “He sauntered out kind of talking about women,” Bray said. “He looked angry.”
Meanwhile, Carlsbad police had run the license-plate number that Adrienne Goldston called in, and they had already set up surveillance at the Village Apartments at 3665 Village Drive in Carlsbad.
Officers were watching when a red PT Cruiser pulled up to apartment F and parked. The driver got out and went into the apartment. Police later identified the driver as 58-year-old Edward Bernard Power Jr. Within a few minutes, he came back outside with a female later identified as his girlfriend.
Officer Richard Riggin, a 17-year veteran with the Carlsbad police, testified that he “yelled commands” to Power and the woman. “They were both really slow to comply.” The officer said that Power yelled back at them, “I’m a Mongol! I’m going to kill you!” Power made this threat five or six times. “There was definitely some signs of intoxication,” said Riggin.
Officers arrested Power. Riggin said the suspect’s identity was confirmed by information found in his wallet. Power was booked into jail in the early-morning hours of November 2.
Detective Steve Seapker testified at the hearing that after police obtained a search warrant for the apartment, they recovered $2060 in cash rolled up in a carpet in the carport near the front door. The detective said they did not recover a gun.
According to Seapker, Power is a “documented Mongol” — a member of “an outlaw motorcycle gang” whose logo is a portrait of Genghis Khan wearing sunglasses. The detective said that Power has previously claimed to be a member of the Mongol gang and that he has gang tattoos.
The local media reported that a man claiming to be the Geezer Bandit had been arrested. But it became clear that Power was not the Geezer Bandit the following week, on Friday, November 12, when a bank was robbed in Bakersfield by a man whose appearance and methods closely matched the Geezer Bandit’s. Power was in custody at the time. The Geezer Bandit has now robbed 12 banks, 10 in San Diego County.
Power had been arrested earlier last year, in February. He was charged with three felonies for allegedly threatening and using force on police officers. He pleaded guilty to one count, admitting that he “Unlawfully attempted by means of threats and violence to prevent a police officer from performing a lawful duty imposed upon such officer and did knowingly resist the officer by the use of force and violence.” The judge gave him three years’ formal probation.
During the preliminary hearing for his current offense, Power sat next to his court-appointed attorney, Jack Campbell. Power was handcuffed to the chains around his waist, and his heavily tattooed forearms were visible below his short-sleeved jail uniform. His hair was pulled into a short ponytail, the little curl of hair resting on the back of his neck. Sheriff’s records describe him as 5 feet 11 inches and 160 pounds. Power nodded often while he listened to witnesses and stared directly at the bank tellers and police officers. Sometimes he whispered to his public defender. The hearing lasted less than an hour.
At the end of the hearing, Power was found in violation of probation, and Judge Timothy Casserly ordered him to face seven new felony charges, including robbery, attempted robbery, and threatening violence upon an officer. Power pled not guilty to all charges.
On January 6, the day his case was set for trial, Power pleaded guilty to three felonies: one robbery and two attempted robberies. He also admitted two prior felony convictions from 1991: assault with a deadly weapon and repeat felon in possession of a firearm. According to the plea-deal paperwork, Power expects to get ten years in prison when he is sentenced on February 15.