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FBI: 'Limping bandit' is suspect in 23 heists

Limping Bandit
This image provided by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office Detention Center shows Cecil Stephen Haire of Douglas, Ga., who the FBI says robbed 23 banks across the Southeast.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

There were no breakneck getaways for the so-called "limping bandit" who the FBI says robbed 23 banks across the Southeast, often waiting in line to pull a gun and then simply limping away to blend into the streets outside.

Now, after a string of robberies going back three years, authorities think they finally have their man.

Cecil Stephen Haire, 51, of Douglas, Georgia, was arrested Friday after a witness wrote down his Georgia license tag after seeing a man limp from a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, bank after a robbery.

Haire, who has a limp from childhood polio, faces state armed robbery charges. The FBI has also linked Haire to 22 other robberies in South Carolina and three other states.

No one was hurt in the robberies and authorities would not say how much was taken. A total of 12 banks were hit in South Carolina as well as five in Florida and three each in Alabama and Georgia.

Agents say the string of holdups may have gone on so long because the bandit drew little attention.

"He would walk into the bank very casually, sometimes even wait in line and be a customer" until he got to the teller and showed his gun, FBI Special Agent Joseph Hamski said Tuesday.

Never running
Then the bandit made his getaway.

"He got his name 'limping bandit' because he was never seen really running — it was more like a fast walk because of that limp," Hamski said.

The bandit, who generally wore a polo shirt, baseball cap and, sometimes, sunglasses, threatened to shoot the tellers if they put a dye pack or tracking device in with the money. Hamski said that discouraged bank workers from chasing him.

A man limping from a bank doesn't draw a lot of attention.

"That's why a lot of people on the outside, if they were to see him walking from the bank, it didn't look like anything out of the ordinary," the agent said. "He would walk out of the bank and around a couple corners and blend right back into the public."

Haire was being held at the Charleston County jail and court documents and a check with the jail showed he had no attorney as of Tuesday.

Corrections records show Haire was sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery in Savannah, Georgia, in 1986 and released after serving seven years.