CLEARWATER, Fla. — A serial bank robber, with a history of robbing banks two decades ago, was arrested Tuesday within minutes of robbing a Clearwater bank, police said.
Clearwater police and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) worked together to arrest David Ratcliff, 55. On Tuesday, around 10:44 a.m., police said Ratcliff robbed a Wells Fargo Bank at 639 S. Fort Harrison Ave.
A Clearwater police detective spotted Ratcliff's getaway vehicle a few minutes after robbing the bank. Police said Ratcliff was getting gas on Clearwater-Largo Road.
When a sheriff's deputy attempted to conduct a traffic stop on Ratcliff, the vehicle sped away. There was no pursuit, but a PCSO helicopter was able to track the car into Belleair Beach, where Ratcliff was trying to steal a truck on Harbor Drive, police said.
Ratcliff fought with the truck owner but was caught by a PCSO K-9 shortly after. From the time he robbed Wells Fargo and was arrested, it only took 26 minutes.
Police said Ratcliff was released from federal prison after being convicted of six counts of armed bank robbery in the late 1990s. He was dubbed the "I-4 Bandit" and was suspected of as many as 19 bank robberies along, and near, I-4 corridor two decades ago.
More recently, Ratcliff was a suspect in bank robberies this month in Temple Terrace and St. Petersburg.
"Thanks to information from witnesses, alert Clearwater Police detectives and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, we are grateful this repeat offender was captured," said Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter. "Based on Ratcliff's most recent string of crimes, we are hopeful this criminal career is finished for good this time."