KTVU viewer who spotted 'Bearded Bandit' suspect shares story

- The KTVU viewer who helped put an end to a spree of bank robberies throughout Northern California spoke to crime reporter Henry Lee today.

The man, who wished only to be identified as James, said he recognized the suspect from a TV report that aired right here on KTVU earlier this week.

Brentwood police arrested 30-year-old Kenneth Ellis of Stockton last night. Authorities say he's the bank robber known as the "Bearded bandit," accused of robbing or trying to rob 15 banks while wearing a full beard.

But when police swooped in and made the arrest, his head and beard was shaved off, leaving only  a goatee

Just hours earlier, he had a full beard, just as he's been in seen in many bank surveillance photos.

And he still had his beard when he walked out of the Safeway store on Balfour Road in Brentwood. 

"I noticed a guy walking out and i said to myself, 'God, that looks just like the bearded bank robber that I've seen on Channel 2 News," James said.

"I don't understand it. I mean, when I saw all the broadcasts, he never changed his style. It was always the same," James said.

Concord police Cpl. Chris Blakely said, "Last night, in Brentwood, a viewer who saw the telecast on KTVU a few nights ago that you did, saw our bearded bandit inside of a Safeway over there. They reported that he was acting suspicious. He immediately called the police."

Brentwood officers showed up. Ellis was gone, police said, but the Ford Mustang he was driving was still there.

So police staked the car out for hours.

And it paid off.

Police say Ellis went to a nearby gym to shave and came back to the Mustang. He drove off but was arrested during a traffic stop. Police say he didn't ask why he was being stopped

Sources tell us Ellis has no criminal history, but is a business owner who told police he's been suffering from financial problems.

The Bearded Bandit robbed 11 banks throughout Northern California, taking $28,000.

Police say he tried to rob a 12th and cased three others.

As for the witness, James says he was at the right place at the right time.

"Civic duty. Just doing what everybody else would do, I would think. I'm no hero, nothing like that. "

KTVU reached out and asked for a jailhouse interview today, but he declined. He's being held at Contra Costa Jail in Martinez in lieu of $100,000 bail.

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