Police ID 1 of 2 Bluffton bank robbery suspects

DNA evidence processed at sheriff's lab makes the case

astice@islandpacket.comFebruary 2, 2012 

  • Anyone with information about the bank robbery or David Everett Mack Jr.'s whereabouts is asked to call the Bluffton Police Department's Crime Tip Hotline at 843-706-4560.

  • Get breaking news and story updates about courts, crime and emergency services in southern Beaufort County by following Lowcountry Blotter on Twitter.

All was going as planned for the two bank robbers.

They'd jumped the bank president in the parking lot before opening hours, forced him into the bank at gunpoint and bound him with duct tape.

They even dismantled the video surveillance system and had a duffel bag ready to carry away the loot.

Then their plan fell apart: They couldn't get the safe opened, so they ran. One of the robbers got rid of his handgun -- a BB gun, it turned out -- as they fled.

The gun and other discarded items found by Bluffton police helped identify Bluffton resident David Everett Mack Jr. , 24, as a suspect in the Jan. 19 robbery of the Palmetto State Bank on Bluffton Road.

Mack ran toward Goethe Road, where he was spotted by witnesses who helped police identify him as one of the suspects, Bluffton police said at a press conference Thursday.

Analysts at the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office forensics lab have matched DNA from the items Mack tossed with DNA collected during a search of Mack's Wharf Street home, Chief David McAllister said.

Mack, still missing, now faces charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, McAllister said.

The FBI also is seeking federal charges, McAllister added. The FBI has been a "big help" in the investigation, Bluffton police Sgt. Joe Babkiewicz said.

"He knows we are looking for him and has fled," McAllister said. "We will go anywhere in the country to extradite him."

The botched robbery began at 7:10 a.m. Jan. 19 when Mack and another masked man ambushed Palmetto State Bank president Montague Laffitte as he parked his car, police said. They forced Laffitte into the bank, bound his arms and legs with duct tape and ransacked the bank searching for cash, McAllister said.

The two men, wearing ski masks and coveralls, knew the morning routine at the bank, including when Laffitte arrived at work, the chief said. They also knew where a surveillance camera was kept and yanked the video tape out of it.

When they couldn't open a safe, they cut the duct tape off Laffitte to get him to help them. That didn't help -- he couldn't open it either.

When another employee entering the bank surprised them, they decided to run, taking with them little more than $100 from coin trays left out overnight, McAllister said.

Mack ran through a field toward Goethe Road and tried to hide his ski mask, coveralls, BB gun, the surveillance tape and other items in the leaves, McAllister said.

The other suspect ran in a different direction. Police have leads on his identity but didn't release details Thursday.

McAllister said the Sheriff's Office forensics lab helped the investigation by processing the evidence quickly. Representatives from the forensics lab, including director Renita Berry, also attended Thursday's press conference.

"Their work is the backbone of our investigation, the backbone of these charges," McAllister said.

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