Student Tia Marks says she didn’t feel safe as she tried to get back to her South LA home in the midst of a chaotic scene after alleged bank robbers turned pursuit suspects tossed cash out of the window of their Volvo SUV. Many bystanders say they couldn’t resist trying to pick up a few bills, some of them dodging squad cars to do so. Patrick Healy reports from South LA from the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2012.
Hundreds of bystanders swarmed the scene of a high-speed pursuit in South Los Angeles Wednesday as police tried to apprehend alleged robbers who were tossing money out of their getaway vehicle.
"This isn't something we see every day," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Capt. Mike Parker said. "This definitely had some unique aspects to it."
More than a dozen times during the pursuit, handfuls of cash were thrown out of the backseat window of a black Volvo SUV that authorities had pursued from the scene of an alleged armed bank robbery in the Canyon Country area.
Photos: Robbers Spill Money in Pursuit
"If they thought that by throwing money out the window, that that would distract us or have people get in the way and block us -- they're going to run out of money," Parker said "We're not going to run out of sheriff's deputies. We're not going to run of helicopters. We're going to stick with them."
"I can't imagine they did this for the good of the community," Parker later added.
During the pursuit, onlookers were waving to the suspected bank robbers, apparently signaling for them to throw more money. At times, the vehicle had to navigate through dozens of people in the streets west and soutwest of downtown LA.
Parker said there are either four or five suspects. They were armed with at least one handgun, he said.
Two were taken into custody at the end of the pursuit.
Police were searching for two other suspects in the Sylmar area. Aerial video showed a person being taken into custody in Sylmar at about 1 p.m., although it was not immediately clear whether the person was connected to the case.
The pursuit began around 10 a.m. in the Canyon Country area following a Bank of America robbery. It ended about 80 minutes later in South LA near the intersection of Vernon and Kansas avenues (map).
A crowd of people gathered around the SUV after it was forced to stop because of traffic.
Officers exited their squad cars to confront the alleged robbers and were able to take them into custody among the sea of onlookers.
Within minutes of the pursuit ending, the crowd started growing (pictured, below). Aerial video showed dozens of people swarming around the suspects' car and police vehicles. By 11:30 a.m., hundreds of people were estimated at the scene.
Aerial video from NewsChopper 4 showed a woman walking up to the black SUV, and picking something up off the ground. Parker later confirmed it was a dog that had gotten loose.
Traffic in the area was snarled for hours.
A witness at the scene said she was bowled over by the alleged robbers' actions.
"I'm just so glad this person came to throw this money in the 'hood, basically. You usually see robbers and they take their stuff and they leave. But this guy came over and tried to help us out. You know, it's a big depression nowadays," said the woman, who identified herself as a 23-year-old resident of the area.
"So It's more like all of us are supporting the robbers and the cops. He's doing something I never though a robber would ever do. "
"Kind of like a Robin Hood situation, rob from the rich, give to the poor. Everybody's out to kind of get some of the money," another resident told NBC4.
The chase included the southbound 110 Freeway and surface streets just west of downtown before heading into South LA.
No injuries were reported at the robbery, said Sgt. Daniel Stanley of the Sheriff's Department in Santa Clarita.
An NBC4 viewer called the station to say her son was one of the bank tellers approached by the alleged robbers. Her son described the men as wearing ski masks and black gloves, and said one of them jumped over the counter and forced three employees to their knees on the floor.
The alleged robbers asked her son to get them into the bank vault, the caller said. He wasn't able to do so, but another employee complied.
The FBI described the incident as a takeover-style robbery, meaning everyone in the bank was aware a robbery was in progress. The FBI is investigating any possible connection to other recent robberies.
This is the third police pursuit this week. On Tuesday night, a suspect was shot by police following an hour-long pursuit through neighborhoods near downtown.
On Monday, a driver led police on a pursuit for hours. He managed to flee the vehicle and evade arrest.