Remember the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze action film Point Break? The film was about a group of criminals calling themselves the “Ex-Presidents” because of their penchant for wearing masks of presidents Carter, Nixon, Johnson, and Reagan on their crime sprees.
Patrick Mitchell could start a gang like that in the real world. During a 15-year criminal spree, Mitchell stole an estimated $3 million dollars!
He often did it in the disguise of presidents Reagan and Nixon. He also once robbed a bank in a Bozo the Clown mask (although whether he was donning this mask just for a change of pace or if he was making a political statement may never be known).
Mitchell wasn’t a gimmicky bank robber, he was a good one. In fact, many considered him to be the best.
He was part of a group that law enforcement dubbed “The Stopwatch Gang” for their ability to get in and out of banks quickly. He was also what used to be known as a Gentleman Thief, having bragged that he not only never fired a weapon during a robbery, he didn’t even have a gun cocked and loaded.
Law enforcement spent a good part of their time chasing him, and they were usually two steps behind. Not always though — he was caught and arrested twice.
After each arrest, he would be sentenced to jail and then he would promptly escape. Once he put on plain clothes and walked right out the front door!
On Dec. 14, 1987, Mitchell had made a bomb threat, which enabled him and a partner to make off with nearly $500,000.
Unfortunately for Mitchell, his luck finally ran out. While he thought the masks were concealing his identity, in truth they were only helping police to follow his path. A path that would end in Mississippi.
“While I had been robbing all these banks, I didn’t know they knew it was me. Turns out they were putting my picture in the papers the next day,” Mitchell told the LA Times.
He had gone to Mississippi to pull what he termed an “easy job.” While the robbery was quick, lasting less than a minute, the police had not been fooled.
Weeks earlier, he was the subject of an episode of the show America’s Most Wanted. It brought some added attention to the wily robber’s ways.
When a bomb threat was called into City Hall after the airing of that show, the local police chief sensed a touch of the old robber’s ruse. So the chief sent police cars to every bank in the city, along with city hall.
Sure enough, out of one of them walked Mitchell, with an arm full of stolen money. It would be his last job.
He was arrested and convicted of robbery, eventually dying in jail. It was an anticlimactic ending for one of the biggest bank robbers the country has ever seen — but his story has amazed people around the globe.
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