Moments before the Calle Real branch of the Bank of America closed at 6 p.m. on Friday, four armed and hooded men entered, threatened to shoot anyone who might interfere and stole an undisclosed amount of money.
Although Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. deputies found the idling, white getaway van less than a block away, the suspects remain unidentified and not incarcerated. In and around the van, deputies also found dollar bills stained by exploded theft-deterrent packets of red dye, as well as hats, gloves and other articles of clothing. Judging by the trail of littered money in the van’s path, Sgt. Steve Robel of the sheriff’s office said the suspects must have tossed some of the money from the moving van before they pulled into a condominium parking lot behind the bank.
Robel said police were first alerted to the robbery when a man in the parking lot saw hooded figures jumping over the counter, concluded the circumstances were suspicious and called 911.
Sheriff’s deputies later determined the van had been stolen from Los Angeles. Robel said bloodhounds aiding the deputies in their search led them to Los Angeles, where detectives are now working.
“We’re looking in L.A. now,” Robel said. “And we’re working with the Los Angeles Police Dept. to find [the suspects].”
Robel said the 16 customers and seven bank employees present during the robbery described the suspects only as carrying guns and wearing black clothes, gloves and hoods. According to eyewitness accounts given to the police, three men jumped over the counter to obtain the money while one man waited in the lobby.
Although witnesses reported a yellow car that followed the van, Robel said investigators have not yet determined a connection between such a car and the robbery. The search for a second vehicle and the suspects inside it continues.
Witnesses said the robbers pushed several bank customers to the ground, however no serious injuries were reported.