Thieves were thwarted when an Independence Day bid to use a front-end loader to rip an ATM out of the wall in Milwaukie turned into a comedy of very costly errors.
In the attempt to grab the ATM at Clackamas Community Credit Union, the would-be bank robbers stole heavy equipment from at least two other locations - but ended up only doing thousands of dollars of damage and leaving their prize behind. Police are still searching for leads in the case, and still identifying all of their victims.
The early-morning attack on the bank was reported at 5:17 a.m. July 4. 'It was reported by a passing gentleman in a garbage truck,' said Milwaukie Police Department Officer Kevin Krebs. 'He saw a front-end loader sitting in front of the credit union - on fire.'
According to Krebs, the thieves apparently started by stealing a dump truck with a flatbed trailer from Hessel Construction in Portland. 'From a separate location they stole the front-end loader, and put it on the trailer.'
The plan had evidently been in the works for several days; the front-end loader had been reported stolen from Modern Machinery in Portland June 30. They took truck, trailer and front-end loader to the credit union at 10400 SE Main Street.
The front-end loader, however, was too large to fit under the overhang in front of the building, Krebs said, and as they started to try to put their plan into action things began to go awry.
'They had cables and straps,' he said, 'and they put one end on the front-end loader, and the other on the ATM… they used the front-end loader to pull the ATM out of the wall.
'When they pulled, the cable broke,' Krebs continued. 'They tried to scoop up the ATM with the front-end loader… all they succeeded in doing was pushing the ATM into the lobby.'
In the process they did extensive - and expensive - damage to the lobby and the front of the credit union.
Finally they gave up - spectacularly. 'At some point they set fire to the front-end loader' - apparently intentionally, Krebs said. It may have been done to destroy evidence.
The trailer and the front-end loader were left behind at the scene.
'At some point they brought the dump truck out into the parking lot and ran over one of the curbs - they tore off the front bumper with the license plate.'
Police tried to track the thieves with a police dog; they were able to follow them for some distance before the trail abruptly ended. 'They probably got into a vehicle.'
Krebs said they believe there were at least two people involved, and possibly a third driving the get-away vehicle.
The dump truck was found in Northeast Portland - with a pop machine in back. 'We don't know where that came from.'
If you have any information on the case - or know where the apparently stolen pop machine came from - call the police at 503-786-7500.