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Prosecutors preparing charges against 3 accused in bank robbery, police chase

City News Service | 9/14/2012, 9:32 a.m.

SAN FERNANDO, Calif.--Prosecutors were preparing charges today against three men accused of robbing a Bank of America branch in Canyon Country and leading sheriff's deputies on a wild chase in which stolen money was tossed from the windows of an SUV in South Los Angeles.

Phillip Nathaniel Ely, 29; Lavelle Lee Mosley, 22; and Terion Lamarr Collins, 25, were expected to be arraigned this afternoon in San Fernando Superior Court, according to the District Attorney's Office.

A fourth man was still being sought.

The televised chase sparked a circus-like atmosphere in South Los Angeles as people ran into the streets in hopes of scooping up cash and crowded around deputies as two of the suspects were being arrested.

The chase began shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, when four men robbed the bank in the 19000 block of Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Deputies began pursuing the robbers, who were in a dark Volvo SUV that officials said had been stolen in the South Los Angeles area, starting a chase that initially led 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 at Astoria Street and Foothill Boulevard. The suspect who got out at Yarnell was arrested around 1 p.m., but the second got away, according to sheriff's officials.

The vehicle chase continued on the eastbound Foothill (210) Freeway and eventually onto the southbound Pasadena (110) Freeway, then onto Third Street and Alvarado Street in the Westlake district.

As the driver continued into South Los Angeles, a back-seat passenger began throwing money out of the windows. Some residents scrambled into the streets to scoop up the cash while others ran after the vehicle 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.

Around 11:15 a.m., the SUV got stuck on a crowded residential street, and sheriff's deputies swarmed the vehicle with guns drawn, dragging two suspects from it.

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 Parker told reporters that sheriff's investigators were using electronic mapping to determine where money was thrown from the vehicle to determine if
any of the cash could be recovered. About $1,500 had been recovered by Thursday, authorities said.

Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andy Smith told reporters that 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.