How To Rob A Bank: Why Did Scott Scurlock Take His Own Life?


How to Rob a Bank, the latest Netflix documentary, takes us back to the mid-nineties, when the United States of America was standing on the brink of an economic boom, and a man with twisted ideologies decided to wage war against the establishment. It is very important to understand the kind of person Scott Scurlock was in order to know what was going on in his mind when he decided to rob a bank. As Scott’s sister puts it, there was a huge part of Scott’s life that he kept private. Nobody knew what was going on inside his mind, though Suzanne had a fair idea that her brother was a bit of a loner. He talked to people, he socialized, and on the face of it, he looked like a pretty normal chap. But there was a part of him that he hid from others, and there were things he did that nobody could understand. Scott was a talented person, and he excelled at whatever he did.

In 1978, when Scott joined Evergreen State College, everybody, from his peers to his teachers, had great expectations of him, considering he was so good in academics. But Scott was thrown out of the college after the professors found out that he was entering the chemistry lab late in the night and making meth on college premises. Scott sold meth, and the buyers who consumed his stuff believed it to be the purest one of the lot. Scott bought acres of land with the money he earned by dealing meth and later built a multistoried tree house there. That treehouse spoke a lot about the kind of person Scott was. There was a part of him that had embraced the wilderness, as the rules and norms that governed human society irritated him. Scott’s colleagues saw him as this person who was eccentric in his own way and who had the potential to get involved in some kind of shady business.

Scott had a habit of maintaining a daily journal, and he jotted down his deepest and darkest thoughts in there. There came a point in his life when he didn’t know where his life was headed. He didn’t know whether what he was doing was right or not. When he looked into the mirror, he wasn’t able to recognize the person standing on the other end. At times, he discussed it with his sister or his friends, but most of the time, he kept these thoughts to himself. Soon, Scott realized that he would not be able to sell meth for a very long time as the law enforcement authorities were after everybody who was involved in the business. Scott knew that soon he would have to find a new way to earn money, and that’s how he came to the conclusion of robbing a bank. Steve Myers and Mark Biggins were his colleagues who got involved with him. They loved Scott for who he was, and he had supported them at a time when they were in desperate need of money. 

After the first robbery in 1992, Scott realized that he would need somebody on the inside to have proper knowledge of how a bank functioned so that he could access the vaults. That’s where a woman named Mustang joined them, and she taught them the proper terminology so that the next time they went to rob a bank, nobody underestimated them and thought of them as amateurs. In the next four years, the trio went on to rob approximately 16 banks, and they were on the first spot on the FBI’s most wanted list. An FBI team headed by Shawn Johnson was on the lookout for the robbers, but for four years, they weren’t able to make a single breakthrough. The most fascinating aspect of the robberies was that Scott robbed the same bank in a span of days, and that said a lot about the audacity the man had. 

In 1996, Scott decided to go on one final mission to rob the Seafirst Bank’s Lake City branch. He told Biggins and Meyers that after the robbery, they could part ways and do whatever they wanted with their share of money. Scott was not in the best state of mind during that time, and a lot of things had started bothering him. He didn’t know where his life was headed, and probably, for the first time in his life, he had no roadmap for what he wanted to do in the future. He wanted to rob three banks, one after the other, but the FBI had put trackers on the notes, which made it impossible for him to do that. So, he entered the Seafirst bank with the intention of emptying their vault and hoping that they would be able to find the trackers and dispose of them.

Steve Meyers, Scott Scurlock, and Mark Biggins robbed the bank, but they weren’t able to escape, and the FBI cornered them. Being in a messed-up state of mind meant that Scott started panicking when he needed to patiently sit and search for the tracker. His calm and composed demeanor was something that made him stand apart from the crowd. It was the reason why he had such a successful stint and why he was able to be a step ahead of the law enforcement authorities. Steve and Mark got caught by the police, while Scott was able to make a narrow escape. The police learned that he was hiding in a camper in Seattle. On November 28, 1996, a day after the Seafirst Bank robbery, before the police could enter the camper, Scott Scurlock took his own life. I believe that down the line, Scott lost his will to leave. Everything started seeming futile, and he didn’t look forward to anything in his life. He was living two lives, and he didn’t have the courage to accept what he did for a living in front of the people who knew him. In the end, maybe he just wanted to put an end to his miserable existence and get rid of all the clutter and chaos that had become a part of his life.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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