ABC News’ Mary Pflum and Rob Nelson report:
Fellow employees and gym-goers at the LA Fitness in Deerfield Beach, Fla., saw Michael J. Webb as a hard-working and dependable man who had just been promoted from lead janitor to facilities supervisor.
They were surprised to learn that they man they saw always with a smile cleaning the gym had died Nov. 2 in a hail of police bullets, fatally shot after a high-speed chase that ended his secret life as a serial bank robber.
“To say we’re shocked by this is an understatement,” Mike Smith, a co-worker at LA Fitness who also lived with Webb in a house near the gym, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Webb, 56, supplemented his $14 per hour janitor salary with a 20-year career as a bank robber, authorities say. He was most recently known to South Florida police as the “counter jumper” after six robberies in the past six months in which he made off with more than $100,000 in cash.
“He always went in, went over the counter, went behind the counter, went by each teller and got money out of each drawer and left,” the FBI’s David Bell told ABC News.
It was after the sixth robbery, at a Chase Bank in Pompano Beach, four miles from his home, that Webb was gunned down. Webb was rear-ended by a Broward Sheriff’s deputy after he fled the bank, which he’d robbed two times before, authorities say. When Webb began to crawl out of the truck with a gun in his hand, two deputies opened fire and killed him, according to Broward Sheriff’s officials.
“When the FBI walked in, showed me his picture and told me he was dead, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” Sean Lynch, LA Fitness’s general manager told the Sun-Sentinel. “He was like an uncle who helped me manage this facility.”
Authorities say that Webb’s secret life dated back to the late 1980s when he was known as the “Bandanna Bandit” for his penchant for wearing a baseball cap and bandanna while robbing banks in the Broward and Palm Beach counties area. The Rhode Island native had spent time in prison for a second-degree attempted murder charge as well before seemingly turning a corner and building a new life in Florida.
How Webb was able to fool so many with his double-life as beloved gym employee and serial bank robber remains a mystery.
“It is very surprising,” an LA Fitness member told ABC News. “I would never think that a guy his age would be doing something like that.”