San Francisco bank bandit stays true to form in latest run-in with law

He may be a low-down crook, but at least Buchon Buchanan knows when the jig is up.

Last weekend, Buchanan kept his place in the “dumb criminals” archive when he allegedly decided to not pay his BART fare at the Powell Street station less than a week after escaping from a federal penitentiary.

His file was created nine years ago when the 40-year-old prolific bank robber reportedly proclaimed, “You got me, you got me,” when federal authorities busted him casing a Bank of America on Chestnut Street in the Marina district.

Buchanan was subsequently convicted to nine years in federal prison for committing 22 robberies or attempted robberies of banks throughout California. He also made headlines for reportedly purchasing a book about bank robberies — which included descriptions of various holdup techniques — only an hour before his last heist.

Just like in 2003, BART police said, the so-called “by-the-book bank bandit” was most agreeable with the arresting transit officers.

“When he came into contact with one of our officers, it wasn’t like he tried to lie about his name or anything,” BART police spokeswoman Officer Era Jenkins said. “He gave up peacefully. It was just a strange course of events.”

Strange, Jenkins said, because BART police had no idea they were busting a prison escapee Sunday when Buchanan allegedly forced open the fare gate to enter without paying.

On Nov. 20, Jenkins said, a warrant was issued for Buchanan’s arrest after he walked away from the minimum security ward at the federal prison in Lompoc.

“Oftentimes these seemingly minor violations reveal suspects who are in fact wanted for other more serious criminal activity,” BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said of the fare evasion incident.

Buchanan’s antics were first publicized in a 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article about his arrest on suspicion of dozens of bank heists in the Bay Area and Southern California.

The FBI had been hot on Buchanan’s tail, the newspaper said, after finding his Ford Taurus abandoned near a bank on Taraval Street that had been held up. In the car, they reportedly found a map of the Bay Area with cities circled and a receipt for a book called, “This Here’s a Stick-Up — The Big Bad Book of American Bank Robbery.”

The book had been purchased about an hour before the Taraval Street heist, the Chronicle reported.

After being apprehended by BART police on Sunday, Jenkins said, Buchanan was booked into San Francisco County Jail while federal marshals made arrangements to reclaim him.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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