By Rod Antone
A suspect in five Oahu bank robberies who dressed as a clown for an Halloween holdup and commuted from the Big Island to allegedly commit his crimes is the Honolulu Police Department's most wanted bank robber this year.
Police have identified the suspect as Christopher Kegler, 33. He's one of nine bank robbery suspects still at large from robberies committed in 2002. Police have not been able to identify any of the other suspects.
There have been fewer bank robberies this year than last — 29 robberies so far compared with 38 robberies in 2001. But more suspects are still at large.
While police and federal investigators caught all but seven suspects in 2001, so far this year nine suspects involved in 14 cases have eluded capture.
“We're asking for the public's help in identifying and locating these people … we've got some tips but nothing has panned out yet,” said HPD acting Major Alan Arita.
Suspects in unsolved Oahu bank robberies
Kegler is believed to have robbed one bank twice, then hit three more banks in Kalihi, Moiliili and Makiki between February and November. Police said besides clown makeup, Kegler used beanies, baseball caps, sunglasses and hooded jackets to conceal his face during robberies.
“We've got him identified, now we just have to find him,” Arita said. “I don't know if he realizes it, but robbing banks is a federal crime, and federal prisons aren't overcrowded. There'll always be a place for him in there.”
Police say they believe Kegler robbed the Makiki branch of First Hawaiian Bank on Feb. 27, the Kamehameha Shopping Center branch of Bank of Hawaii on Oct. 19, the Bank of Hawaii in the Moiliili Star Market on Nov. 1 and the Market City Foodland American Savings Bank on Sept. 28 and Oct. 31.
“Our intelligence shows that he (Kegler) was flying over to the Big Island after doing his jobs here,” said Arita. “So we're checking over there also.”
Other bank robbery suspects include a man who robbed the Waipahu branch of City Bank and the American Savings Bank in the Pearl City Foodland within 45 minutes, police said. Police in October said the same suspect in those cases may also have been involved in several other bank robberies in Honolulu since November 2001 but that those cases were still under investigation.
In most cases, witnesses never saw a firearm though suspects passed notes stating that they were armed, according to police. However a woman suspect who robbed the Bank of Hawaii main branch actually lifted up her sweater to reveal a handgun, police said.
All suspects should be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached, said Arita, who describes the typical bank suspect as someone desperate for “fast cash.”
“Most of them just need drug money and they just go right in and get it,” he said. “Hopefully when we catch these individuals and they go to federal prison where there is no probation it will discourage more people from robbing banks.”
Anyone with information about any of these cases are asked to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 or *CRIME on a cellular phone. In Kegler's case, Big Island police are also involved and can be reached by calling CrimeStoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona.
More detailed information about individual bank robbery cases is also available through the CrimeStoppers Web site at www.crimestoppers-honolulu.org/news.html.