UPDATE NO. 2, DEC. 10, 10:10 A.M.: Justin Daniel Hayes pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to being the "Cal Bear Bandit" who has robbed eight Orange County banks since August–and the 27-year-old told a TV reporter he's a heroin addict in desperate need of a $1,500 loan.
Hayes told CBS2's Stacey Butler about the need for that amount from behind jail visitors area glass when his bail was $100,000, but it has since been reset at $1 million. The Orange County District Attorney's office has charged him with eight counts each of second-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, criminal threats, car theft, evading police and hit-and-run, all felonies. He also faces sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily harm. He's due back in Westminster court Dec. 17 for a pretrial hearing.
The FBI claims Hayes confessed to being the Cal Bear Bandit, but in his "exclusive" interview with Butler, the suspect said he made that admission while in a haze from pain medication and that police have the wrong man. He goes on to say that he developed a heroin addiction while attending Northwood High School in Irvine 10 years ago and now lives from motel to motel. "The drugs are my whole story pretty much, heroin. I need to be in rehab, not in jail," Hayes tells Butler, who recorded the conversation on her cell phone.
Through the reporter, Hayes reached out to people who can loan him the cash, vowing, "It'll come back at least double. Triple."
UPDATE NO. 1, DEC. 8, 6:53 P.M.: Justin Daniel Hayes is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail in Orange County Jail as authorities decide whether to charge him in state or federal court. FBI Special Agent Chris Gicking also provided City News Service with more details on how the alleged Cal Bear Bandit struck a Westminster bank Friday afternoon before leading police on a chase that ended with a head-on collision.
Hayes told a cabbie to drive him to a Kentucy Fried Chicken in Westminster that is next door to a U.S. Bank branch and said, "I'll be right back," according to Gicking. As the cab driver waited, Hayes allegedly made his way through the fast food restaurant on his way to the bank and pulled off the robbery detailed in our original post. Some bank employees saw Hayes get in the cab, wrote down its number and called police, Gicking said.
Police pulled the taxi van over near Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, but after the unwitting taxi driver got out, Hayes crawled into the front seat and punched the gas, Gicking said. That led to the police chase that ended with the crash in Santa Ana that injured three people but not Hayes.
Gicking will be among state and federal authorities meeting Tuesday to decide whether Hayes should be charged in state or federal court, City News Service reports.
A day after the Fountain Valley stickup, Hayes was arrested by police in Irvine on suspicion of drug possession and drug paraphernalia, according to Farrah Emami, the department spokeswoman. His car was seized, but he was released from Orange County Jail on Dec. 2 when prosecutors declined to file charges at that time, says Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock.
Cal Bear Bandit Strikes
The Cal Bear Bandit is suspected of robbing:
* Chase Bank branch in San Juan Capistrano on Aug. 20;
* Farmers and Merchants branch in Orange on Sept. 3;
* Bank of America branch in a Costa Mesa Vons grocery store on Sept. 8;
* U.S. Bank branch in Huntington Beach on Oct. 11;
* Cathay Bank branch in Orange on Oct. 17;
* Chase Bank branch in Costa Mesa on Oct. 29;
* Fountain Valley Bank of America branch on Nov. 28;
* Westminster U.S. Bank branch on Dec. 5.
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 8, 10:11 A.M.: Perhaps you've heard of the "Cal Bear Bandit," who earned the nickname because of the cap with the California Republic bear logo on it that was worn in some of the multiple Orange County bank robberies he's accused of pulling since at least August. The FBI believes he is now in custody, but bringing that about took a wild chase involving a stolen taxi cab and a head-on crash that injured three people Friday.
Around 3:10 p.m. Friday, a man wearing a baseball cap with a Batman logo on it handed a teller a note at a U.S. Bank branch at 15555 Brookhurst St., Westminster. The note read: "This is a robbery. I have a gun and I'm not playing." Despite never showing a weapon, the bandit left the bank with some cash.
He then headed toward a taxi, and when the driver got out, the robber got in and drove off with the vehicle, according to Westminster Police Sgt. Cameron Knauerhaze. This led to a police chase that ended just before 3:30 p.m. on Fairview Street, just south of Edinger Avenue, in Santa Ana, where the cab ran head-on into a four-door sedan, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Three people in the sedan–a woman in her 30s, her 4-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old girl whose relationship to the other two was not immediately known–were hospitalized with injuries ranging from moderate to serious but none life-threatening, according to authorities. A fourth person taken to a hospital refused treatment.
The driver of the cab, who was not injured, tried to run from the scene but he was quickly taken into custody. He was identified as Justin Hayes, 27, of Irvine, who was booked at Orange County Jail on suspicion of bank robbery, felony evading and auto theft, according to Westminster Police.
Lauren Eimiller, the FBI spokeswoman, later revealed Hayes is suspected of being the Cal Bear Bandit, who is believed to have also worn a construction helmet in at least one bank robbery.