Thursday, November 29, 2007

Robbers hold up Rabobank in Goleta


A brazen daytime robbery at a Goleta bank sent law enforcement officers on a lengthy manhunt today that failed to turn up any suspects, Sheriff’s Department officials said.
Three suspects, described only as adult black men, entered the Rabobank at 5340 Hollister Ave. at around 10:57 a.m., Sheriff’s Sgt. Erik Raney said, one wielding a small handgun at the six employees.

“They came into the bank and immediately told everyone to hit the floor,” Sgt. Raney said. “One teller managed to trigger the alarm.”
Describing their method as “very authoritative, but not overly aggressive,” Sgt. Raney said they systematically emptied each teller drawer before ordering several employees to open the vault, making off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
“The three suspects then fled the bank on foot,” he said. “None of the six employees were injured. There were no customers in the bank at the time of the robbery.”
Deputies arriving on the scene immediately cordoned off the parking lot at the corner of Hollister and Patterson avenues and began searching for the robbers, one identified as wearing a light-colored, hooded sweatshirt. As a helicopter circled overhead, Sheriff’s deputies prowled the area with K-9 units and FBI investigators examined the crime scene.
“As the search around the bank continued, investigators received information that a vehicle was left abandoned with the engine running on St. Joseph’s Street,” Sgt. Raney said. “Deputies responded and found a 1997 Range Rover parked along the side of the road with the engine running.”
A license plate check revealed the Range Rover had been stolen out of Los Angeles last week, he said. Due to its proximity to the bank, investigators believe it may have been staged as a getaway car.
Authorities quickly locked down the Saint Raphael Church and School to ensure the safety of students as deputies roamed the area armed with rifles, Sgt. Raney said. Parents arriving to pick up their children had to wait 30 minutes before authorities determined it safe to allow the children out of their classrooms.
Officials are not sure if the suspects snatched up dye packs or bait money during the midday robbery. Sgt. Raney said the holdup took only a matter of minutes.
“It was 1, 2, 3,” he said. “They came in, ordered everyone to the floor, grabbed cash from the teller stations and the vault, and took off.”
Authorities said the actions and method utilized by the trio of robbers matched the modus operandi seen in several other bank holdups in the region.
“It does appear that this robbery has some similarities to other bank robberies in the Southern California area,” Sgt. Raney said, “and that will be part of the follow-up investigation.”
The close proximity of Rabobank to Highway 101 is possibly one reason the suspects targeted the branch, formerly known as Mid-State Bank & Trust, Sgt. Raney said, adding that banks located close to the freeway and in easily accessible areas are more frequently robbed.
Although authorities did manage to get a decent look at the suspects from bank surveillance footage, Sgt. Raney said they are not planning on releasing any photos to avoid jeopardizing ongoing investigations that may be linked.
After nearly five hours of searching today, authorities called off the manhunt. Investigators will continue to look into the robbery and are asking anyone with information to contact Sheriff’s detectives at 681-4150.
Today's holdup marks the second bank robbery in the Santa Barbara area this week. On Tuesday, a man wearing fake facial hair who has been linked to several bank robberies in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties held up a Bank of America branch in Carpinteria. That same man is suspected of robbing a bank in downtown San Luis Obispo this afternoon, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

No comments: