Police Catch Bank Robber

Homeless man with fake bomb robs Payson credit union

Police put handcuffed robbery suspect Michael Swinney into a patrol car.

Police put handcuffed robbery suspect Michael Swinney into a patrol car. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Police arrested a transient Wednesday afternoon who allegedly held up a local credit union with a simulated homemade bomb.

Although the package contained just wires, metal pieces and duct tape, it gave employees quite a fright.

Officers quickly arrested Michael Albert Swinney, 55, in the Bashas’ parking lot, moments after he fled the Arizona State Credit Union, 104 E. Highway 260, with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Swinney admitted to police later he had been planning to rob a bank so he could pay for medical care, said Police Chief Don Engler.

Swinney reportedly entered the bank just before 12:30 p.m., placed an explosive-looking device on a teller’s counter and handed her a note demanding money.

The teller gave Swinney cash and he fled east on Highway 260.

Swinney then went to Taco Bell, where he changed out of some of his clothing, leaving several articles behind in the bathroom, Engler said. He then continued on foot toward Bashas’.

As dispatch alerted officers that they had received both a 911 call and hold-up alarm from the bank, three officers just happened to be waiting at the intersection near Jiffy Lube.

Dan Adams, with the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, PPD Officer Billy Hoffman and Gila County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Lane Johnson drove into the parking lot and Adams spotted Swinney walking away from Taco Bell, Engler said.

Guns drawn, officers surrounded Swinney, who surrendered without incident.

Later, during a 30-minute interview with detectives, Swinney admitted he had robbed the bank, Engler said.

“His statement was that he had been indigent, he had been a transient, had not had any luck with government programs, such as AHCCCS, unemployment. He had medical issues and felt in his mind that he needed to be treated medically and couldn’t get access and so he made the decision to attempt this crime,” Engler said.

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Payson police flew in a bomb expert from Flagstaff Wednesday to deal with what proved to be a fake bomb used in a robbery.

Swinney, who did not own a vehicle, had reportedly been camping in the woods in and around Payson and Tonto Basin since January. This was the first time officers had contact with Swinney.

When officers entered the bank, they took pictures of the suspected bomb and sent them to a Department of Public Safety bomb technician.

DPS flew the technician from Flagstaff to Payson within an hour and he determined the device was not a bomb.

“He (Swinney) had used duct tape and wiring and different types of metal objects to make it look like it could be an explosive device,” Engler said.

The device was reportedly six by eight inches.

Police arrested Swinney on charges of armed robbery and misconduct involving weapons. He also had warrants out of Florence for failure to appear.

Engler said he did not think Swinney picked the bank for any specific reason, “I think he was in proximity to that one when he made his final decision.”

During police interviews, Swinney allegedly expressed some remorse.

“I wouldn’t say to a great degree... but he did say he was sorry,” Engler said.

One woman, who was in the back of bank at the time of the robbery, said she didn’t see Swinney, but was told by the bank manager to get out because someone had left a bomb in the building.

“At first I thought she was joking,” the woman said, who asked that the Roundup not identify her. “I thought, ‘This is Payson, we don’t get bomb threats.’”

When the woman got outside, she decided to move her vehicle, and since she hadn’t seen anything, continued with her afternoon errands.

As the woman parked her car in the Bashas’ parking lot, she saw police, with guns drawn, arresting the man.

“It felt like a movie,” she said. “I thought, ‘This can’t be real.’”

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