Sal Reyes says he was compelled to return the cash he scooped up during a bizarre police pursuit through the streets of South LA Wednesday. Men suspected of robbing a bank tossed wads of cash out of the window of a Volvo SUV, drawing hundreds of residents to the scene to grab the loose bills. Patrick Healy reports from South LA for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2012.
Hundreds of people swarmed the streets in South LA Wednesday afternoon when suspected bank robbers led police on a pursuit while tossing wads of cash out the window of their getaway car.
"There were mothers leaving their kids and they were just grabbing the money, and there was just money in the air," said resident Sal Reyes. "It was just everywhere."
Many in the crowd took it as an opportunity to scoop up the loose bills, but Reyes says he was compelled to return the money he found.
He said he picked up the cash without initially knowing why it was on the ground. Someone explained to him that it was money from a bank robbery.
Several residents described the alleged robbers as modern-day Robin Hood figures, taking from the rich to give to those in one of LA’s less affluent neighborhoods. But there’s no indication that was the intent when three men in ski masks allegedly robbed a Santa Clarita Bank of America. A fourth man was in a getaway car.
Reyes said he had to return the loot.
"You have to give it back. You can’t just go spend money that’s not yours," he said.
Witnesses described the scene as chaotic, with crowds chanting, "We want money," and some gatherers dodging squad cars and climbing over vehicles caught in the melee.
"Everybody was just grabbing whatever they could," Reyes said.
Police on Wednesday urged the public to return any bills they found, emphasizing that receiving stolen property can be considered a crime in itself.
But officials say the smaller bills – those in denominations of one, five, 10 and even 20 – will likely go unnoticed and the bank’s insurance will pick up the tab.
Police did not disclose the amount of money taken from the bank.
Three of the men have been arrested. Police on Wednesday night continued to search for one of the men who used a different getaway.