Bank of America bomb robbers flee with large sums of cash
A bank manager says she was leaving her Huntington Park home for work Wednesday morning when two masked men snatched her.
They strapped what they told the woman was an explosive device onto her chest and instructed her to rob her own bank.
Authorities said the manager complied, bringing a bag filled with cash to the back of the bank, where the robbers grabbed it and sped away.
PHOTOS: Bank manager forced to rob own branch
In a city known for some bizarre bank robberies, what happened at the East L.A. Bank of America branch is quickly taking on a mythology of its own. The robbers avoided being seen on bank video cameras and as of Wednesday evening were still at large with what officials said was a large sum of money.
The bank manager was unharmed. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad detonated the device, which law enforcement sources said did not appear to be an active bomb.
The FBI and local police interviewed the manager at length Wednesday but have released few details about what happened. Initially, officials said she had been kidnapped Tuesday night, but sources said detectives are still trying to sort out exactly what happened.
Her name has not been released, but a TV news helicopter camera captured her talking to officers in the back of a patrol car.
It’s unclear how the robbers came to target her. Sources said it is possible they had been following her from the bank.
The first sign of trouble occurred just after 8:30 a.m., when the manager entered the bank shortly before it was supposed to open for business. She informed her colleagues inside about the device and she collected the money.
“She followed instructions to throw the money out the bank's back doors,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mike Parker said. Two robbers fled in a white Kia.
Moments later, the bank alerted the East Los Angeles sheriff’s station. An arson and explosives team arrived and carefully pried the device off the bank manager and took it outside, Parker said.
A bomb squad robot rolled onto Atlantic Boulevard in front of the bank and inspected the device. Then a bomb squad specialist in full protective gear surrounded it with sand bags.
Several hundred people were evacuated Wednesday morning in the area.
Robert Lopez said he was at the unemployment office for an appointment a block and half from the bank when officials announced about 9:30 a.m. that it was being evacuated.
“There is a bomb. There is a bomb, we’ve got to get out,” he said.
--Richard Winton, Sam Quinones and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: The sheriff's arson and explosives team robot detonated an explosive in the street in front of the bank. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times