Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder today announced the arrest of Paul Lewis Bradley, 60, in connection with a Monday morning extortion attempt and fake bomb incident at a Fayetteville bank.
Bradley faces charges of aggravated burglary, theft of property, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, felon in possession of a firearm and terroristic act.
Courtesy, Washington County Sheriff
The announcement came in a news conference Thursday afternoon inside the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Fayetteville.
The incident began when Betty Davis, 73, entered an Arvest Bank branch at 3045 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and told bank employees a man had put a bomb on her ankle and that he had threatened to detonate it if she did not withdraw money from her account to give to him. She then ran outside and waited for police to arrive.
Davis told police a man wearing a dark ski mask over his face entered her home at 15860 E. Black Oak Road at around 9 a.m. Monday where he armed himself with a shotgun located in the house, bound her husband’s wrists and ankles, and attached a device to her leg which he said was a bomb.
The couple said the man told them he wanted $10,000.
“He seemed to know that I had money in the Arvest Bank,” said Mr. Davis. “He said ‘I don’t want to take all your money. You won’t lose nothing. The insurance will pay your money back.'”
Mrs. Davis said she was still in her pajamas at the time.
“I had to go change and put some jeans on quickly,” said Mrs. Davis. “Then he just pushed me out the door and told me what we were going to do.”
According to Mrs. Davis, the man instructed her to drive to the bank where he would meet her to collect the money.
She said he told her he’d detonate the device on her ankle if she didn’t cooperate.
After arriving at the bank, Davis said she decided to inform a teller of her situation and immediately exit the building.
“I just couldn’t do it,” said Davis. “I thought, if he did what he said he was going to do, then it could blow up the bank and all the people inside. I’ve led a long life, a good life, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to get injured because of me, so I just took a chance.”
Monday photos at Arvest Bank
Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
Shortly after police and members of the Benton County Bomb Squad arrived, authorities removed the device from Davis’ leg and began questioning her. It was later determined that the device was nonexplosive.
Police were dispatched to the couple’s home where they found Mr. Davis duct taped to a barstool.
Mr. Davis said he was able to remove some of the tape by stretching it, but couldn’t free his hands enough to open the door or to call for help.
“I got the phone off the hook with my teeth and I put a pen in my mouth and tried to dial 911,” said Davis. “I got the 9 dialed, but I never could get the 1-1.”
The Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the Fayetteville police and the FBI, began a search for the suspect which included obtaining video surveillance from area hardware stores.
Police said detectives found video of Paul Bradley purchasing items which matched those found at the crime scene. Police also said Bradley was associated with a suspect vehicle which was in the area of the Davis residence around the time of the crime.
A Wednesday night search of Bradley’s home, located on Hwy. 74 in Elkins, revealed evidence associated with the invasion of the Davis residence. Police then arrested Bradley.
Sheriff Helder and Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor said the quick arrest was a due to the partnership between county and city authorities.
“I think it’s important for people in Northwest Arkansas to understand what a cooperative effort this was,” said Tabor. “It was like one big agency working together to get this thing solved.”
Mr. Davis said he was surprised when police told him they believed the man behind the mask was Paul Bradley.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” said Davis.
Police said the two men are casual acquaintances and frequent patrons of Rick’s Iron Skillet restaurant in South Fayetteville.
“I had coffee with him last week,” said Davis. “I never thought he would do something like that.”
Police say Bradley does have a criminal record.
“Last year, he was involved in a scheme to defraud local residents of $10,000,” said Sheriff Helder. “He was going to do some HVAC work, requested money up front, and then never performed the work.”
According to Helder, Bradley was subsequently arrested in March 2011 and ended up with a suspended sentence.
Helder said the investigation is continuing.