LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) _ A bumbling bandit dropped the loot while fleeing a bank holdup, only to be tracked by wet footprints to a nearby motel room where he was staying, police said.

''He was down on his luck on a rainy day,'' Police Cpl. Doug Houston said today.

Jimmy Joe Sappington, 28, was arrested at a motel across U.S. 171 from the First National Bank branch 12 minutes after the holdup, Houston said. Sappington, also wanted in connection with bank robberies in two states, was booked on a charge of armed robbery.

The holdup began just after 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, when a man entered the bank branch and handed a note to the teller saying he had a gun and demanding money, police said. A weapon was not displayed.

The man dropped the $1,900 loot just outside the bank door when a package of red dye exploded, Detective Sgt. Robert Broussard said.

''One of the ladies that was there watched him cross the street to the motel,'' Houston said.

Another customer told the motel manager what had happened. Motel employees followed wet footprints on a dry walkway to a motel room door and called police, Broussard said.

''When the officers got him to open the door, they saw the red dye all over the clothes he'd changed out of,'' Broussard said. ''It didn't take a net to put two and two together.''

Sappington is also wanted in connection with holdups in Memphis, Tenn., and Lafayette, and was questioned about bank jobs in Tupelo, Miss., and Orlando and Tampa, Fla., police said.

''He needs to find himself another way of making a living,'' Houston said.