LAPD and California Highway Patrol chased and arrested two bank robbery suspects Tuesday morning at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall and are searching for three others who escaped custody, according to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) media relations.
Five suspects, four blacks and one Hispanic, robbed the Downey Savings and Loan in Costa Mesa around 9:45 a.m. The suspects sped away in a four door, black SUV headed northbound on the 73 freeway.
During the pursuit, the suspects could be seen throwing money out of the vehicle.
As helicopters whirred overhead, the suspects were chased at speeds of 100 miles per hour from Orange County to the Crenshaw district by members of the California Highway Patrol.
The pursuit ended around 10:30 a.m. when the driver of the suspect’s SUV lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a tree at Stocker Street and Crenshaw Boulevard.
According to witnesses, money began spilling out of the car while bystanders tried to scoop the bills up.
The officers arrested the driver and one of the passengers–a black and a Hispanic–while the other three suspects ran through the mall and escaped.
According to Ruben de la Torre, LAPD spokesman, the LAPD and the CHP immediately placed perimeters around the mall. Witnesses reported seeing the suspects bolt into the mall. “We were afraid that we might have armed suspects in the mall,” he said.
“We evacuated 2,000 customers and employees, but the other three suspects escaped. We are still looking to take them into custody,” said de la Torre.
The two suspects who were arrested were placed in the custody of the FBI and will be booked in Orange County. The FBI is reviewing robbery surveillance tape from the bank in an effort to identify the three escaped suspects.
“It is anticipated that the two suspects will be charged with armed robbery,” said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. “We are still seeking three black males.”
De la Torre, who would not reveal how much money was stolen, said that some of the money had been retrieved. “Some of the money was left in the vicinity of the crashed vehicle and some of the money was found elsewhere,” said de la Torre.
Police authorities reported that the SUV had license plates from Washington state.
“We also found an automatic handgun,” said de la Torre.
Tuesday afternoon, Benjamin Richardson, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza General Manager, released the following statement:
“A two county high-speed police chase that started in Costa Mesa ended outside Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. In accordance with police protocol the mall was closed for several hours while police completed their investigation. No further incidents nor injuries occurred.”
Richardson added, “We apologize to our customers and merchants for any inconvenience this may have caused. The mall is open and it is business as usual. It is unfortunate that this incident that started in Costa Mesa ended in Baldwin Hills. However, we are pleased that the training and preparedness of our team was effective in assisting the police during this incident and that our retailers and the mall were able to reopen within a few hours of this incident occurring.”