Iowa Heartland Credit Union

A bank robbery suspect is shown at the counter of Iowa Heartland Credit Union in a surveillance footage released by Mason City police in 2015. Officials believe the man is the serial bank robber known as the AK-47 Bandit and is linked to heists in several states.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Richard Gathercole, alleged to be the "AK-47 bandit” who robbed a Nebraska bank in 2014, was set to enter a plea Tuesday but instead asked for a different court-appointed attorney and more time to prepare for trial.

The "AK-47 Bandit" is also believed to have entered the Iowa Heartland Credit Union on South Monroe Avenue in Mason City on July 28, 2015, armed with an AK-47 rifle with a high-capacity magazine.

Employees at the credit union were ordered into a vault, and an "improvised explosive device" was left behind.

The robber allegedly brought in a device with smokeless powder, metal pieces and a fuse, which he told bank tellers was a “pressure bomb,” according to court documents. The robber fled in a black Toyota Camry.

The device was deemed safe and there were no injuries.

FBI Special Agent Andrew R. Ubbelohde alleged in an affidavit that Gathercole stole $126,000 from the Mason City credit union.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart denied the motion for a new attorney after a closed-door meeting with Gathercole and his current attorney, Jon Braaten.

Gathercole now is set for trial March 25 on a six-count indictment in connection with the robbery of $90,000 at First Nebraska Bank and his arrest in Dawson County in 2017.

The 40-year-old from Roundup, Montana, was arrested June 19, 2017, at a gas station near Lexington following an earlier shootout with a Kansas Highway patrolman, a high-speed chase and a carjacking.

In the indictment, Gathercole was accused of being in a stolen pickup and in possession of an improvised explosive device with six containers and two homemade detonators with handwritten labels the day he was arrested.

He also was accused of the holdup, one in a series of bank robberies and attempted robberies across five states that law enforcement believe to have been committed by the suspect dubbed the AK-47 bandit because of the rifle he brandished when he went in the banks.

- Globe Gazette reporter Courtney Fiorini contributed to this report.



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Contact Courtney at 641-421-0534 or on Twitter @CourtneyFiorini.



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