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Gun, ammo & surveillance equipment found in vehicle Man jailed as FDLE looks into what he was doing at bank

by Teresa Eubanks, Journal Editor
A man who pulled into the parking lot at Centennial Bank in Bristol early Tuesday morning to get a little sleep after a night out found new accommodations a short time later - the county jail.
When employees arrived to open up for the day, they noticed a maroon Chevrolet Suburban backed into a handicapped parking spot. The vehicle was filled with some unusual items, including a realistic looking life-size cardboard cutout of a woman’s head attached to the headrest of the front passenger’s seat.

They also noticed surveillance cameras attached to the exterior of the vehicle. One employee told a deputy that the man in the SUV appeared to be filming her as she walked from her car to the bank.
After a phone call to the sheriff’s office from the worried staff at the bank, the mysterious visitor soon had some company.
Sheriff Eddie Joe White said after they determined that the tag on his SUV was not only out of date but did not belong to that vehicle, “we had probable cause to engage with him.”
When they made contact with 65-year-old Robert West of Thornton, Pennsylvania, he was found to be in possession of a firearm and ammunition as well as a lot of surveillance equipment. “Video cameras were mounted on the inside and the outside of the vehicle,” the sheriff said. “He also had a laptop, electronic tablets and some hard drives.”
Liberty County Sgt. Mitch Willis noticed another odd item inside the vehicle. “He had a trauma kit, complete with gauze,” he said.

They were concerned, as Willis explained, “After what just happened in Texas (referring to the church shooting) and Las Vegas (the attack on concert goers outside a hotel), we didn’t know what to think.”

Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as an agent with the FBI made a quick trip to Bristol that morning.

The sheriff said he was using “an abundance of caution” because of the location being at a bank as well as close to a school. The high school was briefly on alert and “once we made sure the area was secure, we opened the school again,” he said.

“Our focus was on what is in the vehicle and what he was doing here,” the sheriff said.

After extensive interviews with investigators, it was determined the man “was an eccentric retired person who made some odd decisions,” according to the sheriff. “He probably won’t be using a bank parking lot to sleep in again,” he added.

• • • • •

It took a while to determine the visitor from Pennsylvania was not a threat.

While Willis was questioning West in the bank parking lot, a bearded man that he described as “looking homeless” walked by. West commented, “Hey, there’s my buddy.”

Suddenly, there were two suspects.

It took some doing but finally Willis determined that the two men did not know one another after West admitted he had been joking around.

The man walked away and Willis continued talking with West. Minutes later, a call came over his radio about a suspicious person at Subway. Deputies went to check on him and found the same man. After verifying security video from the bank showing that the two men had not been together earlier that morning, someone bought him a sandwich and sent him on his way.

Willis resumed his talk with West and asked what he was doing. West replied that he was fulfilling an item on his Bucket List to visit all of the Coyote Ugly bars east of Colorado. It appears it had checked off visits at all those establishments in Colorado and he was anxious to see what the chain had to offer in the south.

But why? “He said it was a cool bar and he liked it,” according to Willis.

West explained that he had been out the previous evening at one of the Coyote Ugly sites - either in Panama City or Destin, he wasn’t sure. As he came back through Bristol, he got tired of driving in the fog and decided to pull over and rest.

He said he was near the end of his trip with only “a couple more” of the bars to visit. His next destination is the Daytona Coyote Ugly.

As for having the wrong tag on his SUV, he told Willis that he had eight vehicles and a stack of tags in his garage at home and must have gotten the tags mixed up.

Willis confirmed that West does have a concealed carry permit for his pistol.

While FDLE is still doing a background check on the visitor, he does not appear to have a criminal history.

Except of course, for yesterday’s arrest in Bristol for attaching a tag not assigned and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis. He was scheduled to go before a judge Wednesday morning.

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Date
November 10th, 2017

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Staff

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