Armed robber ambushes ATM customer at Lakeland bank

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Polk County deputies are looking for a man who pulled a gun on a customer dropping off money at a Lakeland bank's night deposit box. They also want to find the driver who helped him get away.

It happened around 9:30 p.m. Monday, August 5th at the Fifth Third Bank on Combee Road. The customer, a manager from a nearby Dollar Tree, was in his vehicle at the time. He was dropping off the store's cash for the day. As he drove up to the night deposit box, the robber was hiding behind a wall, waiting to strike.

"Within just a few seconds, there's an armed man there who sticks a gun in his face," said Scott Wilder, Public Information Officer with the Polk County Sheriff's Office. "He points it and says, 'give me all the money.'  And, he just hands him the bag that he was going to deposit in the deposit box. Then, that guy takes off."

Where he took off just happened to be heavily surveilled by other businesses, with cameras tracking his every step to the getaway car. Because of the timing, investigators think this wasn't just a randomly chosen customer.

"If it is, it is the luckiest armed robber in the history of the world because they were there right before this happened," Wilder said. "We think they might have surveilled this business or been surveilling the bank for a while and kind of had an idea."

That's why the Polk County Sheriff's Office encourages people to switch up their banking routines so they're not predictable. While some businesses have no choice but to do nighttime deposits, when possible, they advise customers go during the bright, busy daytime hours.

"You've just got to be aware," said Fifth Third Bank customer Olga Perez. "I always look around me, to my right. If I'm with my kids, I tell them just look out for me. I look everywhere."

Whenever she can, Perez does her banking inside. Unfortunately, she knows some, like the suspect on camera, are banking on other people's hard-earned money.

"We work hard for our money, we don't need to get robbed, we don't need to steal from each other," Perez said. "I hope we can find that person, seriously."

The suspect was described as a black male in his mid to late 20s, between 5" 7" and 5' 9" tall, between 160-180 pounds, and last seen wearing a burgundy hooded sweatshirt with a baseball cap underneath.

If you can help, please contact Detective Grant at 863-298-6914, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward leading to an arrest, contact Heartland Crime Stoppers 1-800-226-TIPS (8477) or and click on Submit A Tip.