Grand jury indicts two in 1997 bank robbery

The Oregonian/February 13, 2002
Stuart Tomlinson

Two men with ties to ultra-right-wing groups have been indicted in the violent robbery of a Damascus bank in 1997. To divert attention from the robbery, officials said, the men detonated a bomb at an adult video store six miles away.

A federal grand jury indicted Fritz A. Springmeier, 46, and Forrest E. Bateman, 30, on Jan. 29 on charges of armed bank robbery, use of a firearm in a violent crime and possession of a destructive device in a violent crime.

Springmeier, also known as Victor E. Schoof, also was indicted on suspicion of growing marijuana in his Corbett home after a March 2001 arrest.

Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said the Oct. 8, 1997, robbery of the Damascus branch of Key Bank of Oregon had a "significant impact" on bank employees.

About 1 p.m., a man dressed in battle fatigues approached a teller and demanded money. At one point, he tried to enter the bank's safe. He then fired his gun once into the ceiling.

"This guy had an FBI tag duct-taped to the back of his jacket," Strovink said. "Anytime you have someone come into a bank firing an assault rifle . . . it's the kind of crime that catches the eye of prosecutors and the courts. They could be looking at some very severe penalties."

About 10 minutes before the robbery, which netted the robber $6,000, a bomb was detonated at the Fantasyland Adult Video store, 16014 S.E. 82nd Drive, six miles to the west and about 10 minutes away by car.

Springmeier was arrested Feb. 1 and booked into the Justice Center Jail. He was released following a Feb. 4 hearing before a federal magistrate but was placed under house arrest and will wear an electronic monitoring device. His arraignment is scheduled Friday in U.S. District Court.

The U.S. Marshal's Service is attempting to serve Bateman with the indictment.

The indictment doesn't say which man actually robbed the bank. FBI officials and prosecutors won't discuss the case.

Federal officials have kept both men under scrutiny for their anti-government views and actions for several years.

Springmeier is known for writing books and tracts on the beliefs of the Christian Patriot Association, an ultra-right-wing group based in Boring.

Last March, Clackamas County sheriff's deputies and federal agents arrested Springmeier and his wife, Patricia Springmeier, during a raid at their Corbett home that was part of an ongoing investigation into the Christian Patriot Association.

Police seized marijuana-growing equipment, several weapons and white separatist literature.

Bateman appeared in 1992 on the Oregon State Police's 10-most-wanted list on accusations of felony possession of a firearm and second-degree assault in connection with Skinhead activities. He was convicted in 1989 of racially intimidating a Forest Grove High School student.

Police said Springmeier and Bateman met at a Christian Patriot Association meeting several years ago and that they grew marijuana to supplement their income.

In February 2001, Bateman was one of three people arrested at a house in Sandy where police discovered an arsenal of explosives, machine guns and white supremacist literature.

Police also seized ammonium nitrate and fuel oil -- the same substances used in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building -- and literature affiliated with the Army of God, a white supremacist group connected to the 1997 bombings of an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub in Atlanta.

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