The woman sitting in her car outside a Bank of America branch in Ellicott City had her suspicions.
She had just seen a man holding a crumpled bag leave the bank, pull a silver handgun out of his pants and get into a blue Jeep Cherokee parked nearby. She jotted down the license plate number in a notepad.
As she watched the Jeep drive away, she saw something else: a "pink cloud" appeared inside the vehicle.
These key pieces of information that the witness provided to Howard County police Friday led to the arrest of a suspect less than two hours later as he drove to his ex-wife's house in Nottingham, near White Marsh in Baltimore County, court documents show.
Howard police later charged Albert Lee Collins, 45, of the 5000 block of Montgomery Road, Ellicott City, with robbery, armed robbery and multiple counts of first- and second-degree assault, the documents state.
Collins is being held at the Howard County Detention Center on $100,000 bond. He faces a preliminary hearing Nov. 26, according to a detention center official and court records.
According to charging documents, a man with a gun entered the bank in the 9100 block of Baltimore National Pike shortly after 2 p.m. Friday and ordered 15 employees and customers to the rear of the bank. He then told two tellers to fill a plastic bag with money.
One of the tellers put a dye pack in the bag, which contained $12,304, according to court documents.
Using the tip from the woman, police traced the license plate number and contacted the vehicle's owner, who said his brother had borrowed the Jeep to go to his ex-wife's house to pick up his children. An officer in a police helicopter spotted the vehicle approaching the ex-wife's home, and Baltimore County police arrested Collins, Howard police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said yesterday.
The Cherokee was seized and taken to a Howard County police facility, where a detective saw a large red stain on the front passenger seat that appeared to be from an exploded dye pack, the court documents said.
Police did not indicate whether the gun and the money were recovered.
"We are always pleased when a case like this comes to a quick closure," Llewellyn said. "In any case, the investigation may continue right up until the case goes to trial."
Llewellyn said this was the seventh bank robbery in Howard County this year.
Sun staff writer Lisa Goldberg contributed to this article.