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Texas Holdup Suspects Still At Large; 1 Man Questioned Says Robbers Stole His Identity

The Dallas Morning News

A man who authorities identified as one of the suspects in a bank robbery and a bullet-filled chase with police Thursday said he is a victim of identity theft.

Douglas Ybarra, 31, said Friday evening after a three-hour interview with FBI officials in Houston that he is not one of the men authorities are seeking in connection with the Thursday morning events in Richardson and Plano.

"I don't have the courage to do anything like that. That was pretty brazen," he said. "I hope they catch those guys and just clear my name."

Three men who robbed a bank and led police on a chase while spraying gunfire from automatic weapons remained at large Friday.

Thursday, federal officials released names and photographs of Guadalupe Fajardo, 31, of McKinney and a man they initially identified as Mr. Ybarra after witnesses to the getaway identified the men in a photo lineup Thursday. Now authorities are investigating whether one of the robbers stole Mr. Ybarra's identity. Authorities said they were looking for the man whose picture they released to the public and who witnesses identified as one of the robbers.

"We know we have the right robber, we know we have the right picture, and we know that the name is at least an alias and possibly a stolen identity that [the robber has] been using," said FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey.

Mr. Ybarra said he was scared when he heard about the search and called the FBI.

"If I had been stopped, I have a newborn baby, and my wife imagined them drawing guns on us," he said.

He said FBI officials took his picture and his fingerprints Friday and showed him photographs of the suspects. He said he did not know them. He said agents told him the suspect appeared to have been using his identity for some time.

Agent Bailey said a man named Douglas Ybarra was interviewed at a Houston FBI office but was not being held.

Mr. Ybarra's estranged wife, Naomi Ybarra, said no matter what the FBI or police say, she doesn't think her husband was involved in the bank robbery. Officials are searching for Guadalupe Mercado Fajardo (left) and a man they initially identified as Douglas Ybarra.

Ms. Ybarra, 30, said she hasn't lived with her husband in 11 years but their divorce isn't final. She said her 12-year-old son spent the summer in Houston with Mr. Ybarra.

"When I saw him on television last night, I called my son and asked, 'Is that him?' " Ms. Ybarra said. "He said, 'No, that isn't.' And he spent the whole summer down there."

Witnesses said the robbers spoke Spanish while they fled, but Ms. Ybarra said her husband doesn't speak Spanish.

The robbers entered American First National Bank in Richardson about 10:20 a.m., wearing masks and dark clothing, carrying handguns and automatic rifles.

The men are believed to be part of an elusive gang of robbers that the FBI calls the Takeover Bandits. The group is known for using military-style firearms and wearing costume masks, said Guadalupe Gonzalez, special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas office.

"Our goal is to get them off the street," he said. "As we witnessed yesterday, they will not hesitate to use those weapons."

Although they left the bank without incident, the robbers opened fire on an off-duty police officer and led officers from Plano, Richardson and Dallas police on a chase into Plano, where outgunned police lost track of the men.

Authorities could better identify the men because they took off their masks and gloves, said Richardson Detective Jonathan Wakefield.

He said the group in the past has shown sophistication and long-range planning. They might not have been identified Thursday had they not opened fire on an off-duty police officer, he said.

Agent Gonzalez said the group is suspected in 60 aggravated robberies in the area since April 2002, including nine banks. The banking industry and the FBI are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Agent Gonzalez said the men also could have committed robberies in Austin and Houston recently.

Mr. Fajardo has a prior criminal record. Mr. Fajardo was sent to California's Wasco State Prison in 1992 after an assault conviction in Santa Barbara, Calif., corrections department officials said. He served less than a year, was paroled and then returned to prison on a parole violation in 1996. He was released four months later, the officials said.

In 2001, Mr. Fajardo pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana, public intoxication and unlawfully carrying a weapon in Collin County. All three misdemeanors occurred Jan. 11 in Melissa.

In Thursday's getaway, the robbers opened fire on police vehicles on Central Expressway and Plano streets. At least six police cars received fire from the gunmen's "AK-47 style" automatic rifles.

If captured, the men would face aggravated robbery charges, and Plano police plan to charge them with carjacking and attempted capital murder.

Officials with the various departments say they are proud of their officers.

"We train for all the unknowns. Unfortunately, you can't really train for automatic weapons. But we obviously knew the threat was always there," Richardson Sgt. Keith Cannon said.

"You don't give up when you see a squad car hit. These officers did the right thing. They kept going."

Staff writer Tim Wyatt, Robert Tharp and WFAA-TV contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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