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Originally published Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Former Army Ranger gets 24 years in prison for bank robbery

A former Army Ranger accused of masterminding the takeover robbery of a Tacoma bank more than two years ago was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison.

Seattle Times staff reporter

TACOMA — A former Army Ranger accused of masterminding the takeover robbery of a Tacoma bank more than two years ago was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison.

"I am probably the most arrogant person I know," Luke Sommer, 22, said during the sentencing hearing. "I used it as a shield and hurt a lot of innocent people who didn't deserve it. I dishonored my unit, my country and my friends ... ."

Sommer pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery; armed bank robbery; brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and possession of an unregistered hand grenade in exchange for the sentence. In addition, he was sentenced Friday to five years of supervised release.

During the hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, federal prosecutors stressed how many people had been affected by Sommer's actions, including his family, former military unit and bank tellers. But the message was driven home by Sommer's 4-year-old son, Landon Sommer-Rose.

Just before U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess took the bench, Sommer and his son kept up a steady patter of small talk over the barrier between the defense table and the audience. At one point, Landon asked his father: "Are you going to come to my house for Christmas?"

Sommer paused, then said, "Probably not. But I'll tell you what: In 2039, we have a date."

Federal prosecutors said Sommer, of Peachland, B.C., planned to use the proceeds of the robbery to start a crime family to rival the Hells Angels in British Columbia. But in interviews with The Seattle Times, Sommer claimed he staged the robbery and subsequent arrest to draw attention to war crimes he'd witnessed in Iraq.

An Army investigation found no evidence to support Sommer's claims.

According to documents filed in the case, Sommer was an Army Ranger stationed at Fort Lewis when he recruited two other Rangers, Chad Palmer and Alex Blum, and Canadian nationals Tigra Robertson and Nathan Dunmall to participate in the Aug. 7, 2006, robbery of a Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way. The robbers, some armed with AK-47s and wearing body armor, made off with $54,011.

A bystander spotted the license plate of the getaway car and reported it to police. The car was traced to Fort Lewis, where evidence of the crime was uncovered at the men's barracks.

Sommer was arrested at his parents' Peachland home but disappeared after being placed on house arrest. He later was arrested in Richmond, B.C.

Blum and Palmer, who served alongside Sommer in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, pleaded guilty to taking part in the robbery, as did Robertson, of Kelowna, B.C., and Dunmall, of Chilliwack, B.C.

"Every sentence in a criminal case is a sad and tragic day, and that is especially true here," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion. "By all accounts, the defendant is a pretty smart and motivated young man who could've done a lot of things with his life ... If he has a conscience, he should feel terrible."

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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