A serial bank robber with a history of robbing banks two decades ago was arrested Tuesday within minutes of robbing a Clearwater bank.
Clearwater Police and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office worked together to arrest David Marc Ratcliff, 55, shortly after he robbed the Wells Fargo bank at 639 S. Fort Harrison Ave.
The original call to Clearwater Police about the holdup came in at 10:44 a.m.
That’s when the suspect walked into the bank and robbed it. He ran from the bank, but a witness saw him get into a red Dodge Magnum and drive away from the area.
An alert Clearwater Police detective spotted the vehicle a few minutes later as the suspect was getting gas on Clearwater-Largo Road. When a sheriff’s deputy tried to conduct a traffic stop shortly thereafter at West Bay Drive, the vehicle fled at a high rate of speed.
No pursuit was initiated, but assistance from the sheriff’s office helicopter was obtained.
The helicopter was able to track the vehicle into Belleair Beach, where the suspect abandoned the car and tried to steal a truck on Harbor Drive. The truck owner fought with the suspect, and the suspect ran from the scene but was caught by a sheriff’s office K-9 shortly thereafter.
Between the time of the robbery and the apprehension of the suspect, only 26 minutes had passed. Ratcliff was taken to Morton Plant Hospital for treatment before being taken to the Pinellas County Jail.
The suspect is no stranger to bank robberies. He was released from federal prison after being convicted of six counts of armed bank robbery in the late 1990s.
He was dubbed the “I-4 bandit” and was suspected of as many as 19 bank robberies along and near the Interstate 4 corridor two decades ago.
More recently, he was a suspect in bank robberies this month in Temple Terrace and St. Petersburg.
“Thanks to information from witnesses, alert Clearwater Police detectives and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, we are grateful this repeat offender was captured,” said Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter. “Based on Ratcliff’s most recent string of crimes, we are hopeful this criminal career is finished for good this time.”
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