Bank robbery suspect hitches to jailhouse

Bank robbery suspect Mark Chambers hitchhiked to the police station Tuesday before turning himself in, according to police and the man who says he picked him up.

Lt. Daniel Fort of the Kaua‘i Police Department’s Investigations Bureau confirmed that Chambers was picked up as a hitchhiker and given a ride to the station, although he did not identify the driver.

Bill Eichenberger, 58, said yesterday in an interview with The Garden Island that he was on his way from Hanalei to his home in Lihu‘e when he spotted a man who “looked like he needed some help” trying to hitch a ride near Kilauea’s Menehune Mart.

Eichenberger, a retired military helicopter pilot, picked up Chambers at roughly 8:30 p.m., and asked where he was headed. A series of cordial questions revealed that Chambers was also going to Lihu‘e, specifically to the police station to turn himself in for the bank robbery at Kukui Grove Center.

“At first I thought he was pulling my leg, but he was telling me about his heroin addiction, about his alcohol and drug problems, and that he needed help. I told him he was doing the right thing,” said Eichenberger.

After the brief conversation, the two “turned on some music and drove down there.” On the way, Chambers, 50, of Hanalei, began looking in his backpack for his identification card, and assured Eichenberger that there was “nothing you need to worry about in here.”

After a 30-minute ride that had “no problems,” the two arrived at the police station, where officers treated Chambers well, in a “very professional” manner as they put him in handcuffs and placed him under arrest, according to Eichenberger.

The KPD released further information pertaining to Chambers’ arrest record yesterday, announcing that in addition to his 1982 arrest for bank robbery in Los Angeles, he was also convicted for bank robbery stemming from a 1997 Kaua‘i incident.

Chambers was arrested by Kauai police in September 1997 after robbing a local Bank of Hawai‘i branch, then was turned over to federal prosecutors. In October of that year, he pled guilty and was eventually sentenced to four years, three months in prison and three years of supervised release.

According to records, he served his time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Ore., a medium-security facility.

Fort said that the report from Chambers’ most recent arrest, for Saturday’s robbery of the First Hawaiian Bank, had also been turned over to the FBI. Chambers remained in KPD custody.

“The FBI will be investigating the crime,” said Special Agent Brandon Simpson. “The FBI has assigned a case agent who will be here tomorrow,” Simpson said yesterday.

Since the FBI has taken over the investigation “it is 99 percent certain that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute,” Simpson said.

Police have yet to release information regarding the amount of cash that was taken in the robbery or its current whereabouts.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be contacted via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com or by phone, 245-3681 ext. 252.

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