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Ex-wife calls dead suspect ‘perfect example of America’s drug problem’

March 15, 1997

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A bank robbery suspect shot and killed after a high-speed chase threw away his TV career and family life to follow a crack cocaine addiction, his ex-wife said.

Robert Anthony Downey Jr., 45, of Silver Spring, Md., was shot by a state trooper Thursday after his car skidded into a railroad work site as he fled a holdup in Raleigh.

``I think he had a death wish. He seemed to want somebody to kill him because he couldn’t do it himself,″ Sharon Downey said. ``He’s like the perfect example of America’s drug problem.″

Downey was fired from his job as assignment editor at Baltimore TV station WBAL in 1995, after an arrest for cocaine possession.

After one round of recovery, Downey worked in Washington for a government transcript service. After showing renewed signs of drug use, he was sent to a rehabilitation program but the problems recurred and he was fired, Mrs. Downey said.

Last year, Downey returned from another attempt at rehab and got involved in his 8-year-old son’s activities, coaching his basketball team and volunteering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

``It was like watching a dead person come back to life,″ his ex-wife said.

But when FEMA called last week for him to help with flooding in Tennessee, Downey was gone.

The FBI said Downey was a suspect in 12 bank robberies in suburban Washington between last October and Monday. Agents are checking to see if he committed other robberies on his way to North Carolina.

On Thursday, authorities said, Downey and two women entered a Wachovia bank in north Raleigh, walked out with cash and drove off with police in hot pursuit.

The chase ended when the driver of the suspects’ car lost control on an exit ramp. Trooper Anthony Scott approached the vehicle and fired several shots when a man in the back seat aimed a pistol at him, troopers said.

Cynthia Ann Passmore, 35, of Forestville, Md., and Michelle Peters, 30, of Washington, were arrested.

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