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A little after 10 a.m. on September 9, 2021, a medium-built man in a gray hoodie, white sneakers and blue surgical mask entered the Arrha Credit Union in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Carrying a large orange envelope in one hand, he quietly handed the bank teller a note demanding money, to which the bank teller obliged. Upon receiving the undisclosed amount of cash, the man turned around, exited the bank and vanished into thin air.
Eleven days later he appeared again, at another bank roughly 10 miles south on Interstate 91, to do the same. Again he disappeared, only to pop back up two weeks later to hit yet another bank roughly an hour and half drive north along I-91. Then he hit a fourth, heading back south on I-91 to East Windsor, Connecticut, just nine days after the last job.
Six months, four states and 11 total bank robberies later, the serial bank robber had earned a $10,000 price on his head and a nickname: “The Route 91 Bandit.” Federal authorities released surveillance video and images from the Route 91 Bandit’s sixth robbery — the Workers Credit Union in Athol, Massachusetts on November 5th — and offered that aforementioned 10 grand to anyone who could provide identifying details that lead to his arrest.
“In the interest of public safety, we’re asking anyone with information about this individual to contact us immediately. We need to put a stop to this man’s crime spree before someone gets hurt,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division told reporters in February. “He’s considered armed and dangerous so please take a close look at these images and reach out to us if you know who he is.”
Given the cash at play, the relatively clear images of his likeness and the scintillating headline fodder of “The Route 91 Bandit,” local news coverage of the incidents went viral, but only for a minute. Despite the serial bank robber remaining at large, authorities were unable to provide meaningful updates, and within a few days, public interest all but completely subsided.
However, there remain a small handful of netizens who — whether for their geographic connection to the highway or purely for the Route 91 Bandit’s apparent disregard for mask mandates — remain dutifully committed to not just following the case, but trying to solve it.
Brad, a pseudonymous 39-year-old in Hartford, Connecticut, first read about the case on the subreddit Reddit Bureau of Investigations, or r/RBI, a community of roughly 530,000 users who, for better or worse, use their internet sleuthing skills to ferret out details and connect dots that might aid in authorities’ pursuit of justice.
“I didn’t even know people robbed banks anymore, so I immediately clicked the link and recognized his sweatshirt in the video of him robbing the credit union in Athol, Mass,” Brad begins. “That’s Post University, a small college about 40 minutes from where I live, plus the dumbass turned around and ‘No Hall Like Ohall 2016-2017’ was written on the back of his shirt.”
Brad’s first move, he says, “was to look up the school’s website and see what dorm ‘Ohall’ would be, assuming it’s his sweatshirt and not a smokescreen.” It didn’t take long for him to find out “Ohall” likely referred to Okinga Hall, a student dorm on Post’s campus. “If he was a freshman in 2016, that means he should’ve graduated,” Brad tells me. “I couldn’t find any publicly available student archives, yearbooks, ‘notable graduates’ or anything like that, so I next scanned through pictures tagged to Post University or location-tagged in Waterbury for pictures of dudes wearing the sweatshirt or the Red Sox hat he’s got on.”
Again, no dice. “Just a bunch of university athletics pictures from volleyball and whatnot,” he says. “Then I thought the hat he was wearing looked pretty familiar, so I went down that rabbit hole.” Brad ultimately found a vintage Red Sox hat the looks similar to the one worn by the Route 91 Bandit, seen in an eBay screenshot below:
“Either way, it’s not the most common Red Sox hat in the world,” he tells me. “But once I found that, I didn’t know where to go.” At that point, Brad says he was “about three hours in and saw two missed calls from my boss, so I decided I should get back to my actual job.”
Though not a member of the “Reddit Bureau of Investigations” like Brad, 27-year-old Denny also found out about the Route 91 Bandit on Reddit, specifically r/Vermont, the subreddit for his native state. “This guy robbed a bank in Brattleboro — there’s maybe 900 people in that town,” Denny says. Battleboro’s population is closer to 12,000, but the small-town sentiment still compelled him to spend a Saturday scouring the internet for leads. “I’m not really one to ever waste time on the internet, but something about this loser taking people’s hard-earned cash without even bothering to wear a mask,” Denny says. “Think of all the bank robbers and quote-unquote bandits who would’ve benefitted from entering a bank where everyone’s wearing a mask, but this guy is either too stupid or too cocky to even try.”
Where most people who commented on Reddit about the case followed a similar route as Brad, looking up clues pertaining to the Route 91 Bandit’s clothing, Denny turned to Google Maps. “Some people were saying he looked young — he’s a 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-8 white guy — but to me he looked like he was older than being in his 20s,” Denny tells me. “CNN had mapped the places he hit, so I tried to triangulate what hotels he might’ve stopped along Route 91 with all that cash.”
Denny thought that if he could find “one of those random public livestream cameras” in the area, he might stumble upon the Route 91 Bandit’s apparent getaway vehicle, a “newer model Nissan sedan,” according to reports. “There’s a bunch of hotels over by the Bradley Airport, but I didn’t get very far with finding a camera,” Denny continues. “I’m not a detective or nothing in that realm professionally, I just got going with this because of how clear you can see his face and clothing details, and thought maybe I’d find something worth passing on.”
Neither Denny nor Brad found information they felt was helpful enough to pass on to authorities, but according to FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera, investigators have received some tips from the public. “This is a very active investigation in which we continue to ask for the public’s assistance while investigators are busy running to ground the tips we have received to date,” Setera writes via email. (She didn’t say if there were any updates to the case.)
For their part, Denny and Brad, along with a few other members of Reddit’s investigative community, aren’t giving up just yet. “I don’t know why exactly I’m drawn to this case more than any others, but I definitely keep coming back to it,” Brad tells me. “Given the timeline and the cocky type of guy he seems like, I wouldn’t be surprised if he strikes again soon.”
Until then, he says he’ll keep an eye out for more footage and information from the FBI, and “keep going down various rabbit holes.” “Something tells me he’ll show up in a picture on Instagram, maybe not wearing the OHall shirt, but the Red Sox hat,” Brad concludes. “I know lots of Red Sox fans, and that’s a vintage hat you don’t throw away, even if it leads to your downfall as a serial bank robber.”