Billy Goat Bandit Charged In Alabama; Mississippi Charges Expected

Gary Clayton Walker, Photo courtesy Mobile County Sheriff's Dept.
Gary Clayton Walker, Photo courtesy Mobile County Sheriff's Dept.

BILOXI (WLOX) -- The man thought to be the Billy Goat Bandit is in jail. FBI agents arrested Gary Clayton Walker at his home near Mobile, about three hours after he allegedly robbed a Biloxi bank.

An FBI spokesman in Mobile says her investigators have linked Walker to a string of bank jobs in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama. But so far, he's only been charged with an April 16, 2008 bank robbery in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The 48 year old was actually considered a person of interest before Tuesday's bank robbery. So when authorities got a tip, and saw a surveillance photo from the Whitney Bank, they said federal agents immediately went to Walker's home and arrested him.

Based on surveillance photos, the Billy Goat Bandit's modus operandi was always the same. He entered banks wearing sunglasses and a hat. And he walked out with undetermined amounts of cash.

"Maybe by the apprehension of the Billy Goat Bandit, maybe that will discourage others," said People's Bank President Chevis Swetman.

If it doesn't, bank presidents like Swetman must come up with other innovative security safeguards. Swetman may follow the Regions Bank lead, and ask customers to remove sunglasses, hats and hoods before they make a transaction.

"Hopefully most people will understand the reasoning behind it," he said.

Swetman admitted he was initially slow to react to the Billy Goat Bandit's alleged crime spree. In fact, when one of his branches was hit earlier this year by the bandit, he didn't feel like policy changes were necessary. However, by Tuesday, when the suspect reportedly robbed a fifth south Mississippi bank -- and surveillance cameras once again pictured him wearing sunglasses and a hat, Swetman knew a wardrobe change for customers was needed to help protect his assets.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out he's got a hat, he's got sunglasses... that maybe this policy we're looking into needs to be accelerated. And we'll be talking about that also," Swetman said.

A customer's clothing policy is a lot more common than you think. Several state banking associations have adopted a no hats, no hood, no sunglasses policy to help employees identify customers.

In Tuesday's Whitney Bank case, tellers told bank managers they recognized Walker as soon as he approached their window, because the suspect looked just like he did the last time he reportedly robbed that branch.  They immediately pressed a warning button.  And surveillance video immediately went to the bank's security office.

At the other end of Biloxi, the People's Bank president was certainly relieved to hear a suspect had been caught.

"If this is the man that's doing it, I hope his luck has run out for a long, long time," he said.

Officially, Walker hasn't been charged with any Mississippi bank robberies yet. However, Biloxi detectives said the suspect admitted to federal agents that he pulled off the two bank robberies at the Whitney Bank on Pass Road. Investigators expect any Mississippi bank robbery charges against Walker to be included in the case file started in Mobile.

FBI records indicate that there have been 16 bank robberies in Mississippi's six coastal counties this year. Investigators say they're collecting evidence that can link Walker to at least five of them.