General Crime

Christophe Wootton AKA The Cotton Ball bandit, serial bank robber shot by police after pursuit

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A Novato bank robbery suspect who was shot Wednesday by a Marin County sheriff’s deputy following a vehicle pursuit to San Rafael has been identified, a police spokeswoman said. San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said the man suspected o robbing the Bank of the West branch in Novato has been identified as Christopher Jay Wootton, 60, of Larkspur. Shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, a Bank of the West located at 1313 Grant Ave. in Novato was robbed.

The suspect fled onto southbound U.S. Highway 101 in a silver Saturn, Rohrbacher said. A description of the suspect and the vehicle he was driving was broadcast to all Marin County law enforcement agencies, according to Rohrbacher. A Marin County sheriff’s deputy spotted Wootton’s car and pursued him when he exited the freeway on Lincoln Avenue in San Rafael.

According to Rohrbacher, the deputy initiated a traffic stop but Wootton did not yield. Wootton drove on city streets until he crashed into a light pole in the 600 block of Las Gallinas Avenue, according to Rohrbacher. He then fled from the vehicle on foot and confronted the sheriff’s deputy armed with a gun around 9:40 a.m., Rohrbacher said. Wootton was shot at least once and taken to a hospital.

He suffered injuries not considered life-threatening, Rohrbacher said. While the name of the deputy who was involved in the pursuit and shooting has not been released, Rohrbacher said the deputy has been with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office for more than 7 years and has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The officer-involved shooting is being handled by San Rafael police and is being investigated by the Marin County Police Chief’s protocol. Rohrbacher said whether Wootton is the “Cotton Ball” serial bank robber “is one avenue of the investigation.” The Cotton Ball bandit, who wore a knit, winter beanie with earflaps and a “cotton ball” on top, is believed to have robbed at least seven banks in Marin County since December 2012.

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