A man who robbed a West Seattle a year ago and was shot by police was sentenced Friday to 19 ½ years in prison.

Share story

A year ago, Douglas Cox was a 50-year-old convicted bank robber and a drunk. He hated his prison halfway house, hated his graveyard-shift job in a Seattle glass factory and basically figured he was wasting his life.

But Cox decided if he could just pull one more score, he could “start over and get a fresh start,”court documents would later say.

So he recruited a getaway driver, and they went to a West Seattle bank. Cox pulled a wig over his head and boot-blacked his face. He waved a realistic pellet pistol around and shouted threats as he shoved $14,000 in a plastic sack.

Then it all fell apart.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

The police chased the robbers all over the city before Cox ended up jammed in traffic. The dye pack in the bank money suddenly exploded.

Then the police shot him six times in the head, hand and face because he wouldn’t put his gun down.

And to cap it all off, a federal judge on Friday sentenced Cox to 19-½ years in prison.

“Mr. Cox’s crime here was an extraordinary crime,” U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik said. He said Cox’s last heist shows his chronic inability “to understand reality and his inability to appreciate the impact of his actions on other people.”

Cox pleaded guilty in April to one count of armed bank robbery for the highly publicized heist July 1, 2008, at a Wells Fargo branch on California Avenue Southwest. It was at least his sixth bank robbery since he started holding up banks at age 41. He had been out of prison for a few months.

After the stickup, Cox and his getaway driver, a 43-year-old felon named Kevin Palmer, led police across the West Seattle Bridge to Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood.

Palmer bailed out and ran. Cox slid into the driver’s seat and drove downtown, where his car was surrounded and he was shot by several officers.

Cox was hit in the head, neck and jaw, and his pellet gun was shot out of his hand. He spent nearly a month in the hospital.

Palmer was charged in King County Superior Court and was sentenced in December to 46 months in state prison. But Cox went to federal court because of his history of armed bank heists.

Cox was convicted of three robberies in Spokane in 1997 and 1998. Then in 2002, he robbed two banks, in Kenmore and Fife, Pierce County. Each time, he was armed with a BB gun.

He was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, but was released in December 2007 to the Burien halfway house, where he met Palmer. He rode a bus two hours each way to the job hauling huge panes of glass all night long for Northwestern Industries in Magnolia.

According to a psychological report Cox’s lawyer submitted to Lasnik this month, Cox started robbing banks in the ’90s after his wife left him, his father died, and he started drinking heavily and lost his job as a meter reader in Spokane.

He suffers from a host of psychological problems stemming from a physically abusive childhood, the report said. At the time of his latest robbery, he was depressed about his job and “found it disorienting and confusing living in a large city.”

“Feeling frustrated, and burdened by his prison record, he decided to rob a bank again, in order to ‘start over and get a fresh start,’… ” the psychologist wrote. She noted that Cox gave two weeks’ notice to his boss before quitting to rob the bank.

But on Friday, Cox didn’t argue with the prosecutor’s urging the long sentence, near the top of federal guidelines.

Cox, gaunt and heavily scarred, apologized in court Friday for traumatizing the bank tellers. He asked for the chance to get psychological treatment in prison.

“I take full responsibility for my criminal conduct,” he told the judge. In a separate handwritten letter to the judge, he wrote, “I feel God kept me alive for a reason.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown said Cox’s excuses warranted no leniency. “The only way to describe him is a danger to the community,” Brown said.

And Lasnik agreed. It wasn’t just the bank tellers Cox hurt, but the people downtown and especially the police who had to shoot him, Lasnik said.

“This sentence is fair punishment,” the judge said.

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.