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Renton woman charged for two robberies in two days

Do you recognize this woman? - Submitted
Do you recognize this woman?
— image credit: Submitted

Twice in two days last week, a Renton woman robbed the same bank in downtown Renton, according to prosecutors, and was in custody mid-week on charges of first-degree robbery.

Nela Mekelda Thomas, 26, was arrested at about 10:30 a.m. May 30 after botched attempts to rob Chase Bank inside Fred Meyer on Rainier Avenue and the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union Bank in the Safeway store on South Third Street a short distance away.

The robberies drew a large police presence to downtown Renton both days.

Thomas was being held on $50,000 bail mid-week in the King County Jail in downtown Seattle. She was also charged Wednesday with first-degree attempted robbery.

About 24 hours earlier on May 29, according to prosecutors, she robbed the same bank inside Safeway of $1,210, which as of mid-week hadn’t been recovered.

She entered and left the store three times before approaching the teller, apparently waiting for the line to shorten, according to charging documents.

She handed the teller a note reading, “Big faces only, don’t scream and hurry.” After receiving the cash, she fled in her Nissan Sentra.

The next morning, at about 10:10 a.m., she went into the Chase Bank in the Fred Meyer store, with a note that read, “Big Face, give me all the money.” On the side of the note was written $100s, 50s and 20s.

At first the teller thought the woman was a vendor but realized she was attempting to rob the bank.

Not letting on, the teller asked her to swipe her debit card. The suspect looked at her and asked, “What?”

The teller asked her from which account she wanted the money withdrawn. The woman replied “$1,000.”

The teller again asked for an account number. The woman said, “just forget it.” She asked for her note back, but she didn’t get any money.

A bank manager was alerted. The suspect was still in the bank. The manager followed her as she left the bank and walked toward a silver SUV but didn’t get in.

As officers searched for her, an officer received a 911 call from the nearby Alaska Federal Credit Union inside the Safeway store about a woman who appeared similar (including a bandaid on her lip) to the one who attempted to rob the bank the day before. She was acting oddly.

Officers found in her a silver SUV in the parking lot. She managed to twist away from an officer as he was taking her into custody. She ran but slipped and fell. She got up and ran across South Third Street into the parking lot at Freddie’s Casino. An officer attempted to taze her but missed. She was taken into custody after an officer used his Tazer as a “dry stun.”

Retracing the suspect’s steps, a detective found the discarded handwritten note used in the bank robbery.

Renton Police Detective Robert Onishi said the suspect has no fixed address, so there was no place for investigators to search for the money stolen in the first robbery.

Investigators are not currently looking for anyone else in connection with the robberies, Onishi said.

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