According to documents filed in federal court, two men, Thomas Ferguson of La Mesa and Duane Bowen of Chula Vista, are responsible for a spate of bank robberies in San Diego and Riverside counties.
Also, they were questioned and released by sheriff's deputies after citizens called 911 last October to report the men were staking out a Wells Fargo bank in Alpine.
One month later, the men robbed a bank in Murrieta. A police chase ensued. Officers shot the getaway driver, Bowen, after he rammed his car into a detective's car. The pursuit and arrests ended a six-month bank-robbery spree.
Newly released court filings show that deputies found evidence linking the men to the robberies in October and failed to act on it.
The bank heists began on July 8 at a bank in Murrieta; the same day the men attempted to rob another bank in Riverside. On July 22, the bandits stuck up a bank in Temecula. A week later, on August 1, a man, matching the description robbed a California Bank and Trust branch in Vista of $7732 while wearing a blond wig and brandishing a black handgun. The following month, a bank in Fallbrook was taken for $7750.
According to court filings, the "facial structure of the robber, specifically the nose, cheek bones, and eyebrows" was consistent with the previous robberies. The court document also revealed that the robber could have used face paint to try and alter his skin tone.
While detectives searched for the man and his accomplice, on October 8 deputies were called to check on a car with three men inside who appeared to be casing a Wells Fargo bank in Alpine.
When sheriff's deputies responded, they found Duane Bowen, Thomas Ferguson, and an unknown male in a car outside the bank. Inside the vehicle they found a blond wig, duct tape, a pellet gun with black hand grip, and a road flare fashioned to look like a stick of dynamite. One of the men appeared to be wearing white face paint.
But deputies did not make any arrests and, on December 19, the men returned to rob the bank in Vista. On that occasion, according to the court filings, employees recognized Ferguson and refused to let him enter. Ferguson then got into a car with Bowen and drove to Murrieta and robbed a bank there; their getaway was thwarted a few blocks away when police officers spotted the car. The pursuit ended miles away, in Temecula, when Bowen rammed his car into a police detective's vehicle and was shot by police.
The two men were arrested. Now, the U.S. attorney's office is making their case. On June 29, a judge gave an order that will allow attorneys to obtain cell-phone records from a number that Ferguson gave during the interview with deputies in Alpine in October 2014.