Crime

Man arrested in the two-weapon bank robbery and bicycle getaway

The Hancock Bank branch at Beatline and Pineville roads was robbed Wednesday. The robber rode away on a bicycle, police say.
The Hancock Bank branch at Beatline and Pineville roads was robbed Wednesday. The robber rode away on a bicycle, police say. calee@sunherald.com

Police have arrested a Long Beach man on an armed robbery charge in Wednesday’s holdup of Hancock Bank, where police say a masked robber brandished two handguns and made his getaway on a bicycle.

Wendell Yarbrough III, 28, is believed to be the double-armed bandit who pedaled away after the robbery that’s unusual by Mississippi Coast trends.

“We observed a bicycle, like the one we were looking for, at his residence when we went looking for him,” Police Chief Wayne McDowell said Thursday.

Yarbrough wasn’t home, but officers found him driving a sport-utility vehicle on Beatline Road by the canal north of Lover’s Lane, he said.

Police took him into custody on an arrest warrant signed by Judge Diane Ladner, who set his bond at $1 million. Investigators questioned him and then booked him on an armed robbery charge.

State law considers a bank robbery an armed robbery. The FBI is typically called in to assist in bank robbery investigations. It’s not unusual for bank robberies to be prosecuted in federal court.

Police had been looking for a masked man who held up Hancock Bank at Beatline and Pineville roads about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and left on a bicycle, headed west on Pineville. Police said they heard from someone who thought they saw him at Long Beach Industrial Park.

The robber pulled out two weapons during the heist, and made his getaway on a yellow cruiser-style bike, McDowell said. Cruiser-style bikes have an upright riding position and handlebars, a large seat and wide tires. They’re designed for comfort and short-distance rides.

Yarbrough lives off 28th Street near Beatline Road, not far from the bank, he said.

“We had a bunch of tips we were following up on that led us to his name,” McDowell said.

Police searched the home Thursday afternoon, he said.

Video footage recorded the bike from a distance. Police at first weren’t sure if it was yellow. A witness reported seeing a yellow bicycle.

Police have not said how much money the bank reported missing.

It’s believed to be the first time in at least 10 years a bank robber in South Mississippi has left on a bicycle, a review of Sun Herald archives shows.

And it’s only the region’s second bank robbery in at least a decade in which a robber has pulled out two weapons. In August, a woman wearing black clothes, a head covering and sunglasses displayed two butcher knives in the holdup of a Hancock Bank in Ocean Springs.

The use of a nylon stocking to cover a face in a bank robbery is rare in South Mississippi, but it’s not uncommon for robbers to use masks to cover their faces.

One of the region’s most uncommon disguises was seen in a bank robbery in Gulfport on Feb. 10, 2005. A man wore a Beatles-style wig, a fake mustache, long coat and carried a briefcase. AmSouth Bank personnel described the wig as “that straight, floppy-looking mop like the Beatles.” The man also claimed he had left a bomb on a teller’s counter, but it wasn’t a bomb.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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