Criminal charges were filed against three alleged gang members accused of robbing a Bank of America branch in Canyon Country and leading sheriff’s deputies on a wild chase on Wednesday, Sept. 12, during which stolen money was tossed from the windows of a stolen SUV in South Los Angeles.
Phillip Ely, 29, of Carson; Lavelle Lee Mosley, 22, of Los Angeles; and Terion Lamarr Collins, 25, described as a transient, pleaded not guilty in San Fernando Superior Court to four counts each of second-degree robbery and one count each of kidnapping to commit another crime.
Ely is also charged with evading an officer and unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle.
The criminal complaint also includes allegations the robbery and kidnapping were committed “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang,” and that all three men personally used a handgun during those crimes.
The kidnapping charge involves one of the alleged victims in the bank.
The three remain jailed on more than $1 million bail each, and are due back in court Wednesday.
A fourth man is 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. on Sept. 12, 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 South Los Angeles, 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 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 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.