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Year in review: Two local bank robberies in 2012 turn into chases

Posted: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.

L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies cordon off the front of the Bank of America branch at the corner of Seco Canyon Road and Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus after the bank was robbed on Nov. 9.

 

The year 2012 saw two dramatic bank robberies in the Santa Clarita Valley.

In each case, the robbers “hit” a local Bank of America branch.

In each case, the alleged robbers fled in vehicles with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s deputies in hot pursuit.

In both incidents, they fled on freeways and then tried to lose their pursuers on surface streets while throwing money out the windows of their cars.

But both the endings and the alleged perpetrators were emphatically different.

On Sept. 12, three men walked into the Bank of America branch in Canyon Country and conducted a take-over robbery. The trio escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash in a black Volvo SUV with a fourth man driving. The suspects were later identified as members of the Rollin’ 40s Crips gang.

Local sheriff’s deputies pursued the suspects down Highway 14 to Interstate 210, where the driver briefly exited the freeway in Sylmar and let two of the SUV’s occupants out of the car.

Getting back onto the freeway, the driver led pursuers on a roundabout chase through Pasadena to South Los Angeles, where he exited the 110 freeway onto surface streets.

As the chase led the Volvo and sheriff’s patrol vehicles past the University of Southern California and into increasingly narrow residential streets, the two occupants began throwing money out the open windows.

Residents who had been watching the chase on TV flocked to the streets and crowded up to the Volvo and behind it, scrambling for money. A Los Angeles police official speculated the money-toss was designed to hamper the chase vehicles.

When a civilian-driven pickup truck pulled into the Volvo’s path, the two were apprehended without further incident.

Three men, all identified as gang members — Phillip Ely, 29, Lavelle Mosley, 22, and Terion Lamarr Collins, 25 — face four counts of second-degree robbery and one count of kidnapping to commit another crime. Ely is charged with evading an officer and auto theft with prior convictions.

One of the two men let out of the vehicle in Sylmar is still being sought.

In the second bank robbery of 2012, the Bank of America on Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus was held up and the suspect chased up the Highway 14 freeway to Lancaster, where he was eventually shot and killed.

The armed robber held up the bank on Nov. 9 dressed in camouflage with a patch over part of his face. He threw a dye pack into the parking lot and got into a dark-gray SUV and drove away from the scene.

Sheriff’s deputies began a search for the vehicle, and a lone deputy picked it up on Sierra Highway heading north. The pursuit began.

Investigators identified the suspect as an Agua Dulce man and speculated that he was heading home, but the driver continued on to Highway 14 and headed north on the freeway into the Antelope Valley with sheriff’s deputies in pursuit.

He made it all the way to Lancaster when a spike strip blew out a tire. He exited the freeway into a residential area of Lancaster and tossed money out the SUV window while winding through narrow residential streets.

Eventually surrounded in a cul-de-sac, the driver got out of his vehicle, then got back inside and brandished a gun at deputies. He was shot and killed through the SUV’s windshield.

A few days later, Agua Dulce residents identified the robber as Steve Bowman, 60, a quiet neighbor who liked eating breakfast nearly every morning at the Sweetwater Cafe. Bowman’s wife died two years previous.

“Everyone around here knew him as a neighbor. It’s a sad story,” said one woman who works at Agua Dulce Hardware. “I think he just gave up after his wife died.”

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