Bad News Bears
Their story has everything a Hollywood director could hope for: A sexy, scantily clad young woman as the alleged leader; two younger brothers, both blond and wild-eyed, following in her brazen footsteps; high-speed car chases; lots and lots of guns and, to top it off, a masked bank robbery.
This is just one alleged week in the life of the reckless siblings dubbed the Dougherty Gang by media and law enforcement.
Their spree through the South, started in Florida on August 2, and ended a wild ten days later in Colorado. What they hoped to accomplish via their string of brazen acts only they know for sure, but along the way, they had the sort of criminal escapade usually reserved for the movies.
On August 1, 2011, Ryan Dougherty was sentenced on two counts of sending a minor harmful information. He had sent hundreds of sexually explicit text messages to an eleven-year old girl. As part of his sentence, he was to be electronically monitored via bracelet for two years and would be on probation for a decade.
Perhaps that news didn't sit well with Ryan, because at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, according to the Pasco Sheriff's office in Florida, the threesome loaded up their white Subaru and left their Lacoochee home. A half hour later, the monitoring bracelet was severed 17 miles away in Zephyrhills, Florida.
By 7:15, the police were in pursuit of the trio who appeared to be making a getaway, going 45 miles per hour on in a 30 mile per hour zone. Where they were going, nobody knew.
The police car, driven by Kevin Wildner, was hot on the heels of the Subaru. As cops closed in on the Doughertys, it was clear this would be no routine traffic stop.
Now heading west, the high speed pursuit continued—reaching 100 miles per hour during some stretches—as police followed the Doughertys through a pharmacy parking lot, when someone from inside the white Subaru allegedly fired rounds—as many as 20—at a tire of the police car. One made contact, but the police continued to chase the suspects—until finally the tire gave out, and the police were forced to quit. The suspects sped off.
Three hours after the shooting, the news was on fire about the threesome. The police departments of Zephyrhills and Pasco County held a press conference. They played for the press a video shot from the dashboard of the police car, showing the pursuit and shooting. The New York license plates had been identified as belonging to Ryan Dougherty. The car was cited as a 2006 Subaru Impreza.
Little did the police know, things were about to get even crazier.
First, We Gotta Hit the Bank In the movies, we learn that after a high-speed pursuit, it's best to lay low for a little while. But this was not the movies and the trio had other plans.
A trip to the bank to withdraw some cash is routine on any road trip, but the Dougherty siblings had a different sort of bank stop in mind. On August 2, the same day of their alleged high-speed shoot out, and two hours after television news stations began broadcasting images from the pursuit, the threesome walked into the Certus Bank on Norman Drive in Valdosta, Georgia, 200 miles south of Zephyrhills. Like regular customers, police allege, they walked through the front door.
Bank robbers generally take two routes when robbing a bank. They do it quietly, without drawing attention to themselves, and whisper or pass a note to the teller, demanding money. Then, they leave as fast as possible. The other way is to be as loud, obnoxious and as intimidating as possible. This is the version in which people get hurt.
The latter was the method the Doughertys allegedly chose, though luckily, no one was hurt during the robbery.
Upon entering the bank they fired shots at the ceiling using what witnesses described as an AK-47. At least two of the three were armed, according to eyewitnesses. One of the robbers covered his or her face with a white handkerchief, and wore a tan hat and sunglasses. Two of the robbers yelled at the bank's customers and employees to get on the ground, while the other loaded up the cash.
They fled in a white four-door sedan, later identified as a Subaru Impreza.
Now, the police were steaming mad.
On Wednesday morning, they held another joint press conference identifying the suspects by name as persons of interest in the car chase shooting.
By Thursday, the threesome's faces were plastered on billboards in Florida. The F.B.I. connected the dots and learned that the robbers and the car shootout suspects were the same. They released a statement warning the public that the trio were armed and dangerous.
As more was revealed about the Doughertys, the more the media ate up the made-for-Hollywood story.
Not Your Usual Bank Robbers For one thing, Lee Grace Dougherty doesn't look like someone who'd be charged with robbing a bank. She's got long dark hair, a pretty face, and light blue-green eyes. But the most striking thing about Lee Grace is her athletic, toned body, which she used to her advantage as a part-time stripper. In Florida, where she and her two siblings were from, Lee worked at Cheaters in Cocoa Beach for a spell.
Lee was not shy about flaunting her body online. Until the scandal, Lee had an active Flickr profile on the photo sharing website. There, she posted picture after picture of herself posing in bikinis. Some of those photos were more risqué. Celeb website TMZ got its hands on Lee posing partially nude and totally nude, which appeared to have been taken and posted just before the bank robbery and car chase.
She wrote on her Flickr page: "I am a Floridian. Born and raised in Seminole County. I have a huge crazy family. I'm 28 but act like I'm 17 most of the time. I love to farm and shoot guys and wreck cars. I'm a redneck and proud of it. I like milk and German engineering and causing mayhem with my siblings."
Though she worked at Cheaters, it seemed that stripping wasn't enough.
A Family Affair Crime of some kind, it turned out, seemed to be a family affair. Lee herself had five felony and six misdemeanor charges. Among the five felonies—three were related to an incident in May of 2011, when she had been allegedly involved in a hit and run in the Cocoa Beach neighborhood where she worked. At the time of the bank robbery and car chase, the charges were still pending. The other felony charges were for a probation violation in Brevard County for aggravated battery and simple battery.
Her brother Dylan, had the shortest record—with one arrest for driving with a suspended license and one for possession of marijuana. Later in the investigation, police revealed that there was a strange bunker in Dylan's home in Lacoochee, which seemed to have been used for growing marijuana.
Ryan, though he was the youngest, had already racked up quite a rap sheet. He had 14 felony arrests (and the conviction for two counts of sending a minor harmful Information). He'd been arrested for obscenity, destroying evidence, hit and run (just like his sister), drug possession, burglary, and, on the first Friday of their spree, police filed a warrant for his arrest for stealing his girlfriend's car and failing to register as a sex offender.
As a whole, the family painted quite a colorful picture for the media. As they continued to hide out, driving along through the southern states, their friends and neighbors, and their mother, pleaded with them via TV and newspapers.
One former neighbor Yvonne Clayton expressed disbelief to the Tampa Tribune. "When I heard Ryan and Lee Grace's names, I said, 'Oh my God! Then I started looking online and I have to admit, I was surprised. I knew there were a lot of guns around the family, and I knew they had some issues, but I was surprised they shot at a cop. I hope they turn themselves in peacefully, but I do not see that happening," she said.
Brenden Bookman, Lee's fiancé in Orlando, also expressed doubt that the trio would turn themselves over quietly, instead imagining a Thelma and Louise-like ending. He told WTSP in Tampa Bay, "I would prefer to see her living than not living, but it's very difficult for me to imagine the three of them wanting to live the rest of their life in a cage." Bookman, a college math professor, 45, met Lee Grace at an Orlando college where she was a student. The two had been living together for seven months before the Doughertys' wild ride began. In an interview with the Tampa Tribune Bookman spoke fondly of Lee Grace, saying, "she touched me in a way neither of my wives came close." Bookman was shocked by the news of his fiancé's alleged crime spree, but was aware of her recent arrests. Interestingly, Bookman was arrested on a battery charge on May 17th, the same night as Lee Grace's hit and run arrest, though any connection between the two arrests remains unclear.
Ryan's girlfriend, pregnant with his child, left this message on his Facebook wall, "I know y u did what u did. But buddy, ur supposed to be there when I deliver."
The gang's mother, Barbara Bell, also took to the press to reason with her children. She said: "The only safe thing, the only right thing, the only good thing to do is turn yourselves in," she pleaded via the Associated Press. And on the local Florida news, she tried again to appeal to them directly. "Only Mom knows what good people you are inside, please prove me right ... You've made some bad mistakes, but so far, no one has been physically harmed. I love you."
She was responding in part to an alarming text message she had received from them. "There's a time for all of us to die," it read.
The police also believed the trio was headed for a "death by cop" situation, which they wanted to avoid.
"It sure seems like they have a death wish," Valdosta Police Commander Brian Childress told the Associated Press. "We're just hoping they surrender, and they do it peacefully so no one gets hurt." Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco agreed: "May the Lord look over all of us, because these three are on some type of mission. And it is a violent mission."
Disappear For the first six days after the bank robbery, no one had heard from or saw the siblings, despite the national media going whole hog with Dougherty Gang coverage, and despite having their faces plastered all over billboards around the country giving numbers to tip lines urging people to call in a sighting.
There was one case of mistaken identity when a tipster thought they'd seen the trio in Tennessee, but that proved to be wrong. On Tuesday, August 9, a week after the crime spree had begun, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco made the talk show rounds, appearing on the Early Show, Fox News, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, CBS, and CNN, among others and told the public to look out for the gang.
It worked. Later that day at 1:30 p.m., police in Colorado Springs, Colo. received a hopeful tip—the trio were possibly in the area near Woodmen and I-25, shopping for camping gear at REI. Someone recognized them and called it in. Only one significant detail had changed—the white car now sported Texas plates, instead of New York plates.
Because of the nature of their purchases, it seemed like the Doughertys were looking to stay off the grid and out of sight, so police and FBI focused their manhunt on campgrounds.
Their hunch turned out to be right. The next day, Wednesday, August 10, the trio were spotted in Colorado City near a campground off Highway 165. Another camper noticed the car and called it in. In short order, the cops were on their way.
Busted The siblings had been spotted at the campground at around nine in the morning, but by the time the police reached the campground, they had already hightailed it and were at a gas station off I-25 in Colorado.
It ended the way it began. Again, a Colorado State Trooper attempted to pull over the car in a routine traffic stop, but this time there were no surprises. It seemed like the trio was going down in a blaze of glory.
Again the police were led on a high-speed pursuit, and again, they were shot at from the suspects' vehicle, allegedly using a MAC-11 handgun and an AK-47.
But this time, the suspects didn't escape. One of the off-duty troopers who was working nearby at a construction site had the foresight to put up stop sticks further down the freeway; the sticks did their job. The Dougherty Gang's joyride came to an abrupt end, as the Subaru flipped over and dangled off the guardrail. After the crash, the siblings attempted a standoff, then tried to flee on foot. Lee, grabbing a pistol, tried to run over the guardrail.
A plainclothes police officer who had arrived on the scene in a marked car, chased after her, yelling for her to stop and drop her weapon. Instead, according to the Affidavit in Support for Warrantless Arrest of the trio, Lee stopped and tried to engage her weapon, pointing the gun straight at him. The officer shot her in the leg. She fell to the ground and was captured.
Dylan was captured and arrested right away. The youngest brother Ryan fled on foot and almost escaped.
A witness called 911 as they saw Ryan running toward a local restaurant; at the same time the construction worker, Shane Zubinsky, spotted Ryan and ran after him. With the help of two others, they tackled him to the ground and held him until police arrived.
Charges and Trial The three were taken to the Pueblo County jail—where they were held on $1.25 million bond each.
It didn't take long for the siblings to start talking. During an interview with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, it was reported in the affidavit that Lee Grace had revealed to the police that she had known that the plainclothes officer was law enforcement and had disobeyed his order to halt anyway. And, she admitted, "I pointed the gun at the cop. I deserved to get shot." She said of being shot in the leg, "the pain was all through my body."
While the siblings waited in jail, authorities wrestled with how to charge them. In the end, they were hit with a total of 76 charges in Huerfano County. Colo. It was decided that the vast majority of their alleged crimes had taken place in that country rather than Pueblo county. Among the most serious charges: five counts each for criminal attempt to commit murder, and 13 counts of crime of violence each.
Their first hearing was set for September 20 in Huerfano County. Charges for the bank robbery have not yet been brought, but police—who had spent a few hair-raising minutes chasing after them and being shot at, felt pride and relief.
On the day of their capture, the police held another joint press conference.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to say we won," Pasco County, Fla., Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "We continuously said that if these three fugitives wanted a battle with law enforcement, we would win that battle. And that's what happened today."
Sources http://www.pascosheriff.com/websmart/Pasco/static/ZHills.htm timeline
911 tapes: http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-911-tapes-reveal-dramatic-moments-of-dougherty-gang-capture-20110812,0,6449634.story
Joint Press Release/has much of the timeline and information here. http://www.pascosheriff.com/websmart/Pasco/static/ZHills.htm