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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suspected ‘bad-tooth bandit’ attacks bailiff

William Miller The Spokesman-Review
The man suspected of being Spokane’s notorious “bad-tooth bandit” attacked a bailiff with a steel rod Friday in an apparent courtroom escape attempt. Aaron Wayne Coats couldn’t get past the bailiff, who put him in a bear hug and refused to let go despite taking several blows to the head. Coats was wrestled down, but he continued to fight - until District Court Judge John Madden rushed over and knelt on the defendant. “I put my full weight on his legs. I had to do something,” Madden said. Sheriff’s detectives investigating the 10:45 a.m. fracas said the bailiff brought Coats to court alone without a sheriff’s deputy escort. The bailiff was unaware of the felony robbery charges Coats faces. The robbery suspect smuggled the makeshift weapon from jail in his blue jumpsuit, detectives said. The 18-inch-long rod was removed from a chair, where it served as a support. A crude grip was fashioned out of string wrapped around a piece of cloth on one end, according to Lt. Clyde Ries. Ries said Coats can expect to be charged with attempted escape and assault. District Court bailiff Gary Bartole, who suffered minor injuries, was treated by a doctor and given the rest of the day off. He could not be reached for comment. The scuffle lasted two minutes, but it signaled a breakdown in courthouse security. Coats, 30, left the jail for a hearing on a misdemeanor theft charge without being searched or escorted by sheriff’s deputies. Bartole told investigators he didn’t recognize Coats as the city’s suspected serial robber. The bailiff failed to punch in the defendant’s name on the county law enforcement computer before bringing him to court. That’s standard procedure, designed to alert the court to potentially dangerous felons, said Henry Bruno, District Court’s chief bailiff. Once inside the courtroom, Coats, who wasn’t handcuffed, waited for a recess before lunging at Bartole in front of about eight people. The judge said he heard shouts of “Call 911!” and ran inside. “It was a very quiet morning, very uneventful up until that time,” he said. Before Madden lent his weight to the problem, two lawyers managed to pry the weapon out of Coats’ hand. At the time, Bartole was the only security officer around. But if Coats had gotten past him, he still would have had to escape the Public Safety Building. “He wouldn’t have gotten very far. People would have seen his face and recognized him,” Ries said. Detectives have linked Coats to 31 robberies since Oct. 1. They believe he started holding up stores to support his heroin addiction. He is facing four counts of firstdegree robbery. Deputy Prosecutor Steve Tucker said additional robbery charges will soon be filed. Coats has denied being the “badtooth bandit.” But he told The Spokesman-Review last month he would “take off” rather than face the charges if he could post his $100,000 bail.
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