A group of people who allegedly robbed a Bank of America in Santa Clarita led sheriff's deputies on a wild chase Wednesday that sparked a circus-like atmosphere in South Los Angeles, where the suspects tossed money out of their SUV, prompting residents to run into streets and crowd around deputies as the suspects were arrested.
The chase began shortly after 10 a.m., when at least four suspects robbed the bank branch in the 18000 block of Soledad Canyon Road in the Santa Clarita area. There was apparently some initial confusion about the suspects, who were described as White males. This was allegedly because they wore masks that made them look White.
Deputies began pursuing the suspects, who were in a dark-colored SUV. During the pursuit the suspects initially drove to the Sylmar area.
Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said two suspects jumped out of the vehicle when it made stops in Sylmar, one at Yarnell Street and Carol Lane, and another on nearby Hubbard Street.
Police and sheriff's deputies were continuing to search the area.
The chase, meanwhile, continued on the eastbound Foothill (210) Freeway and eventually onto the southbound Pasadena (110) Freeway and onto Third Street and Alvarado Street in downtown Los Angeles shortly before 11 a.m.
As the driver led the chase into South Los Angeles, another suspect in the back seat began throwing money out of the SUV's windows. The flying money drew immediate attention from residents, some of whom scrambled into the streets to scoop up the discarded cash.
Some residents could be seen chasing the vehicle on foot in hopes of grabbing some of the purloined loot.
The driver of the SUV led authorities onto narrow streets through residential neighborhoods, at times going onto sidewalks and driving the wrong way on one-way streets.
At about 11:20 a.m., the SUV got stuck on crowded residential street, and sheriff's deputies swarmed the vehicle with guns drawn, dragging two suspects from the vehicle.
As they made the arrests, however, dozens of residents who had been following the chase packed into the intersection, setting up a tense situation as authorities tried to get the suspects into a patrol car. Los Angeles police summoned more units to the scene and set up a skirmish line to control the crowd.
As the suspects were being driven from the scene, some people ran after the patrol car, some pounding on the car or windows.
Capt. Parker told KCAL9 that sheriff's investigators would use electronic mapping to determine where money was thrown from the vehicle to determine if any of the cash could be recovered.
Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andy Smith told NBC4 that one LAPD officer was injured when his foot was run over by a patrol car.
"He's going to be fine," Smith said.
Another person who claimed to have been hit by a law enforcement vehicle was being examined.
Smith said the suspects likely threw the money out of the vehicle in an attempt to draw people onto the roadway to block law-enforcement officers from capturing them.
"I don't know how much was taken in the bank robbery, but I think pretty much everything they had was thrown out on the streets," Smith said. "Over and over again we saw the suspects tossing handfuls of money out of the window of the car."
After the suspects were caught, several hundred people swarmed the location, Smith said.
"It was a boisterous crowd--loud and celebratory, I would say," Smith said. "One of the folks told me that they thought that there was more money inside of the vehicle, and maybe they were hoping to get a little bit of that."
Residents, many of whom may be feeling frustrated, ignored and left out of the current economic debate, told television reporters that the situation was like Robin Hood or a neighborhood stimuluss package.