Berkeleyside broke the news Sunday about two men tied to a Berkeley bank robbery in February. Monday, authorities said the men — brothers from Oakland with felony records — have actually been tied to five Bay Area bank robberies dating back to November.
In all five cases, an armed robber wearing a security guard uniform demanded money from the banks, which were in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont and Alameda. According to court papers, the duo netted more than $40,000 from the heists. One of the brothers, 53-year-old Russell Bartlow, has a prior conviction from 1999 for armed bank robbery, which sent him to prison.
Berkeley investigators became aware of the case in February when a man with a gun in a security guard uniform robbed a bank on Solano Avenue. The man wore a distinctive security jacket, described by police as black with a gold embroidered badge. He approached one of the tellers and demanded cash at gunpoint, BPD said in a prepared statement Monday. The man then ran off down Colusa Avenue and police were unable to catch him.
As they worked the case, detectives learned about three other “similar” robberies, according to court papers obtained by Berkeleyside. The first one took place Nov. 19 in Oakland at a Chase branch, followed by the robbery of an Alameda Citibank on Dec. 10, and a robbery at Bank of the West in Oakland on Jan. 23.
Police said they were able to piece together suspect and vehicle description from witness statements and security footage. That led them to zero in on a White Dodge Challenger identified by police as the “getaway car.” OPD stopped the Challenger in January for a vehicle code violation, and because it had been linked to the robberies, police said. Ultimately, that day, OPD let the driver, 36-year-old Jerron Bartlow, leave with a warning.
Investigators continued to look into the younger Bartlow, learning about his movements, vehicles and associates, according to court papers. At one point, detectives saw an older man park a Toyota outside the younger man’s home, in the 2000 block of 100th Avenue in Oakland, and let himself inside with a key. Police found out that the registered owner of the Toyota was Russell Bartlow, and found that a prior booking photograph “showed that he looked very similar to the suspect seen on the security video” from one of the Oakland cases. Investigators also learned, at that time, that the elder Bartlow was on federal probation for bank robbery.
Police looked deeper into the Bartlows and learned they had both been on days off from work during four of the five robberies. In the other case, there was a two-hour gap between a robbery and the start of Russell Bartlow’s work day, police wrote.
On March 18, BPD became aware of a fifth bank robbery, this time in Fremont, “with the same described suspect wearing the same Security guard uniform armed with a silver semi-automatic handgun,” police wrote in court papers.
Last week Wednesday, Berkeley investigators served a search warrant on 100th Avenue, at a residence identified in court papers as the home of both brothers. During the search, police said they found a security guard jacket, black pants and black shoes, and two handguns, “all items consistent with what Russell used during the commission of the Bank Robberies,” police wrote.
During police interviews, investigators say Jerron Bartlow admitted that a masked man in a security guard uniform — seen in surveillance footage — looked like his brother, though the younger Bartlow himself denied being involved in any robberies.
The men have been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with 13 felonies including armed robbery, use or possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of heroin for sale. (Jerron Bartlow is facing fewer armed robbery charges, and no drug charges.)
The younger Bartlow has one prior conviction, in 2009 in Alameda County, for possession of cocaine base for sale.
His older brother has seven felony convictions dating back to 1985 related to drug sales, commercial burglary, robbery and armed bank robbery. The most recent conviction was in 1999.
The elder Bartlow, whose listed occupation is a student, is being held on a combined $2.22 million bail. The younger Bartlow, a truck driver, is being held on $410,000 bail, according to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office. They are being held at Santa Rita Jail and were scheduled for arraignment Monday.
The men are set to enter pleas April 10 at 9 a.m. at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.
In its prepared statement, BPD thanked the FBI as well as investigators from Oakland, Alameda and Fremont, “for the teamwork” which led to the arrests.
Monday, BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel described bank robberies in the city as “very infrequent.”
“It just doesn’t happen here all that often anymore,” he said.