There was no bomb; just a backpack full of clothes.
Surveillance video of the Thursday morning heist generated numerous tips that led investigators to Paul Michael Donnelly, 51.
Donnelly was stopped at about 1:22 a.m. Friday walking along U.S. 131 near the Plainwell exit. His blood alcohol level was three times over the legal limit for driving.
Donnelly, who lists a home address in Key West, Florida, is accused of robbing the PNC Bank in Plainwell shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, according to federal court records.
He faces a charge of armed bank robbery, which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Donnelly made an initial appearance Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. A preliminary hearing has been set for next week.
According to a criminal complaint, the robbery suspect entered the bank at 131 N. Main St. carrying a green backpack. He was wearing a fishing hat, blue shirt, khaki shorts and sunglasses. Surveillance video also identified “distinctive looking’’ brown sandals.
The suspect approached a teller, set the green backpack on the floor and handed her a note. It read: “I HAVE A BOMB IN BAG CASH IN BAG NOW.’’ On the other side of the demand note was written, ‘’I HAVE A BOMB IN BAG PUT ALL NON-MARK $ IN BAG,’’ according to the criminal complaint.
He then told the teller, “Don’t push any buttons and be quick,’’ and pushed a black plastic bag across the teller counter toward her.
The teller took approximately $4,749 from her top drawer, put the money in the black plastic bag and handed it to the robber. He left through a west door, leaving behind the green backpack.
The bank was evacuated and the Michigan State Police bomb squad responded, along with officers from the Plainwell Department of Public Safety, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax.
News stories about the heist, including photographs of the bank robber, generated multiple calls to the Plainwell Department of Public Safety from people who identified Donnelly as the bank robber. Investigators also found several items of clothing discarded near the Kalamazoo River just west of the bank.
“Donnelly’s associates stated that they recognized Donnelly’s face, posture, unique-looking brimmed fishing hat and sunglasses as belonging to Donnelly,’’ FBI agent Adam J. Van Deuren wrote in the three-page criminal complaint.
One of Donnelly’s associates directed investigators to the suspect’s Facebook page; it showed Donnelly wearing a hat and sunglasses that appeared to be an exact match to the hat and sunglasses worn by the bank robber, Van Deuren wrote.
The associate told Van Deuren that Donnelly talked about robbing a bank and had recently traveled to Plainwell from Texas to see people he knows in the Plainwell area. Associates of Donnelly told the FBI he is unemployed and they do not believe he has a consistent source of income.
When Donnelly was arrested walking along the freeway south of Grand Rapids, police found cash in his pocket along with several Michigan lottery tickets that were time-stamped approximately 30 minutes after the robbery.