Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

3 shot during attempted Long Beach bank robbery; gunman is among the wounded

March 5, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Security guards and a customer restrained a gunman after a shootout at a Long Beach bank this morning.

Authorities released few details, but KTLA News quoted sources as saying that three people were shot and that the gunman was in custody. Long Beach Police Department officials confirmed a bank robbery had occurred and that a suspect was wounded, but they declined to give further details.

The wounded, including the suspected robber, were taken to a local hospital where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, said Lisa Massacani, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department.  

La-me-bank-robbery Police responded to a report of a robbery at the Farmers & Merchants bank on Bellflower Boulevard near the 405 Freeway about 10:30 a.m., Massacani said. The bank is near the Los Altos shopping center, a bustling marketplace that has a Sears, Trader Joe's and Target.

Witnesses described a dramatic scene.

Southern California Edison meter reader Alice Ramirez told The Times that she was making her rounds at 10:30 a.m. and was about to open the door of the bank to read its meter when she heard four gunshots. At first it sounded like heavy hammering and I thought it was construction work. Then I looked through the glass and saw at least three people lying on the floor. I ran out to the parking lot and saw two people in cars and yelled, ‘I just heard gunshots,’ called 911.”

Ramirez said a few moments later a man emerged from the bank, motioning with his hands and shouting, “Those were gunshots. Go, go, go!”

Police investigators were interviewing about 15 bank employees and customers just outside the entrance. Some of them were obviously shaken, teary-eyed and being consoled by friends and colleagues.

As his daughter, a clerk at the bank, was being interviewed by investigators, Jesus Obeso, 62, waited just outside the yellow police tape staring at the bank building. 

“My daughter said a man entered wearing a motorcycle helmet. But he didn’t take it off. Then she heard the gunshots and like everyone else she fell to the floor. She said a customer ran out and grabbed the shooter from behind, holding tight and yelling, ‘I need help, I need help!’”

Obeso's daughter told him that security officers grabbed the man and that everyone was running out of the building. Police arrived with shotguns, and customers shouted at them, “Go inside; they caught him.”

Obeso said his daughter was not wounded by gunfire and was in good condition, although she was shaken. Law enforcement personnel wearing shirts with the word “forensics” could be seen entering and leaving the bank.

Strewn across the bank floor were a red motorcycle helmet, gloves, a gun holster and shell casings.

Bill Brant, 45, of Lakewood was working in his garden Friday morning when  his ex-wife called and said  there was a shooting at the bank, where  his mother  worked as a teller.

Brant's mind immediately went to the worst possibility: that his mother had been wounded. He rushed to the bank and found out his mother, Nancy Brant, was fine. He was able to cross police lines and talk to her. "She's fine, but she was just shaken up." After they spoke, police took his mother back into the bank for more questioning. Brant waited on the sidewalk, breaking down in tears.

He said Nancy Brant has worked as a teller at the bank for nine years, and that he's worried about her every day when she goes to work, mostly because he said the bank does not have protective glass shields around   the tellers. "You never know what's going to happen," he said.

-- Louis Sahagun and My-Thuan Tran in Long Beach

Photo: KTLA