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Bank of America bomb robbers remain at large

September 6, 2012 |  7:05 pm
The bomb squad responded to Wednesday's bank robberyInvestigators on Thursday searched the Huntington Park home of an East L.A. bank manager who told authorities she was kidnapped from the location, strapped to what she believed to be explosives and forced to rob her own bank, sources said.

Seeking clues to solve Wednesday's bizarre heist at a Bank of America branch in East L.A. that netted the robbers a significant amount of money, investigators removed several boxes from the home, according to the sources, who were granted anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The bank manager had given her consent to the search, the sources said.

She told investigators she was kidnapped from her home Wednesday morning as she went to get in her car about 7:30 a.m.

She said she was confronted by two robbers and forced to wear what she believed was a bomb strapped to her chest. She was ordered to drive to the bank, where she subsequently removed a significant amount of cash from the vault and tossed it in a bag outside the branch's back door.

PHOTOS: Bank manager forced to wear bomb

The robbers were wearing masks, and there has been little description provided. One of them was armed with a gun, the bank manager told investigators. The suspects remained on the loose Thursday.

Law enforcement sources are scouring potential surveillance video from the area between the bank manager's home and the branch on Atlantic Boulevard.

The heist was considered very unusual. Bank managers are rarely kidnapped, experts said. Even rarer is the use of an explosive device.

The device was later removed from her body inside the bank by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department bomb squad technician. The device was detonated at the curb outside of the bank and later was determined to be inert, authorities said.

It's unclear how the robbers came to target her. Sources said it is possible they had been following her from the bank.

The manager entered the bank just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, 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," Sheriff's Department Capt. Mike Parker said. The two robbers then fled.

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 sandbags.

Several hundred people in the area were evacuated Wednesday morning.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: L.A. County bomb squad members removed and detonated the device that was strapped to the manager. Officials said they didn't believe it was an active bomb. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times