An Army Ranger-turned bank robber has helped in the publishing of a new book- one that blames his military service and tough training for his foray into criminal endeavours.
Ben Blum -the cousin of Ranger-turned-bank robber Alex Blum- claims that the young Ranger was driven to the crime due to the hardcore, violent and masculine nature- all documented in his new book, Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime.
A Colorado native, Alex Blum was remembered as a “squeaky-clean, patriotic” individual, who worked from a young age to become a US Army Ranger.
“Before I joined the Army, I was vibrant, funny, easygoing, loving and independent,” Alex told his cousin. “When I got my tan beret, I was a shell. I was an angry, testosterone-driven p****… I was unable to value human life.”
Blum describes the gruelling indoctrination and training process to become a Ranger, ranging from staying up for 30 hours or being forced to eat a box of ice cream sandwiches and run until he threw up.
When Blum reported to 2/75 at Washington’s Fort Lewis (now known as Joint Base Lewis–McChord), he quickly fell under the influence of a sociopathic Specialist named Luke Elliot Sommer, who had seen combat and was intent on taking his interaction with the new Privates to a disturbing level.
“At nights and on weekends, they ventured into Tacoma with new eyes,” Blum’s cousin wrote. “Every door was a potential breach point, every bar counter a red zone concealing hidden gunmen, every Denny’s dining room partitioned into lines of fire.”
Sommer would also perform a “suicide check” on the young Privates, handing them a pistol and requiring them to point it at their own heads and pull the trigger without checking the chamber- an act of trust.
In August of 2006, Blum -in an attempt to impress Sommer- was taking the Specialist to a Bank of America branch in Tacoma when he suggested a tactical raid on the financial institution.
The next day, Sommer enlisted Blum as the getaway driver in a real-time robber involving Sommer, Chad Palmer, Tigra Robinson and Nathan Dunmall.
Rolling to the bank in a suspicious Audi A4, the crew began strapping on body armor, donning masks and loading AK-type rifles.
While Blum initially denied knowing the robbery was actually a robbery and not a training exercise, he now admits he knew all along.
“[The] truth is this. I had full knowledge of the robbery before it happened,” Blum said. “I did help plan some of it, and I knew what we were doing.”
In a robbery that took less time than brushing one’s teeth, the Ranger robbers had made off over $54,000.
Despite all their planning, they left the front license plate on their vehicle, resulting in a quick identification by police.
Ever the tough guy, Sommer fled to Canada, where he hid in his mother’s basement until he was extradited, claiming he deliberately wanted to be caught to expose alleged -and dismissed- claims of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. After he was extradited, he was sentenced to nearly a quarter-century of hard time. Palmer, Robinson and Dunmall were all sentenced to around 10 years, respectively.
Getting off easier than his peers, Blum served 16 months in prison before being released on time served, though he now lives with both a criminal record and a dishonorable discharge.
According to Jennifer Senior of The New York Times, Ranger Games is a “memorable, novelistic account” of what went down in 2006, two weeks before Blum’s first scheduled deployment.
“To a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” she wrote. “To an Army Ranger -or to some Rangers, it seems fair to say- every building looks like a potential target.”
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