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Book & Author Luncheon: Why would an Army Ranger rob a suburban bank?

October 18, 2017

In 2006, on a lazy afternoon in August, four ski-masked men dashed from a bank in Tacoma, Washington, brandishing AK-47s and lugging duffel bags stuffed with stolen cash.

They hopped in a silver Audi driven by a 19-year-old getaway driver named Alex Blum, who, like most of the bank robbers, was a member of the elite U.S. Army Rangers.

In his first book, Ben Blum, older cousin of Alex, unravels what initially seems to be an unbelievable story in “Ranger Games.”

The book chronicles the tale of Alex Blum, who had dreamed of becoming a Ranger since childhood, but ended up in a nightmare as an accomplice in an armed bank robbery.

Ben Blum said writing the book was an opportunity to try and understand what happened to his cousin, who underwent a complex and painful experience that encompasses training methods for elite units and “brainwashing.”

“I wanted to understand and support him,” he said. “As it gradually became a book project, it did become difficult to navigate the duties that our relationship put on me and my duties to the truth, as I tried to get to the bottom of his involvement.”

During Ranger training at Fort Lewis, Washington, Alex befriended Specialist Luke Elliott Sommer, who had served a tour of duty in Iraq. As team leader, Sommer would put trainees through mock exercises at theaters and restaurants, asking them how they’d take the sites over if, for example, they were invading a foreign country.

The bank robbery was one of the scenarios. Or so Alex Blum thought. Eventually imprisoned for his crime, Blum expressed confusion about his role in the case to his family and FBI investigators.

Blum recognized early on there were inconsistencies in his cousin’s story. He said that only after putting on his “journalist’s hat” did he begin to come at the disparities in his cousin’s story in a different way.

“There was a lot of healing in reckoning with difficult truths that the family hadn’t faced,” he said.