Robin Hood bank robbers lob loot out car window

Criminals lauded heroes after a 'Robin Hood' giveaway designed to slow chasing police cars

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 4:11am


Even in the spiritual home of police chases, it was a wild ride.

A pair of bank robbery suspects caused mayhem after hurling fistfuls of stolen cash from their vehicle in a failed getaway from Los Angeles cops. As the cash fluttered in the breeze, hundreds of people scrambled into the path of oncoming police cars, lunging at the flying bills.

While it was intended as a gambit to slow their pursuers, the suspects' give-away made them heroes in the deprived South L.A. neighbourhoods where the chase ended on Wednesday.

"It's our neighbourhood stimulus package!" laughed Diane Dorsey, who watched the bedlam unfold from her front yard.

"Kids were smiling like it was Christmas," added a neighbour.

Los Angeles Police spokesman Andy Smith rejected comparisons with a certain folk outlaw known for stealing from the rich to give to the poor. "Robin Hood is not how I would describe these guys," he said. "It's the worst side of human nature."

The made-for-Hollywood chase began in Santa Clarita, when four armed men held up a Bank of America branch shortly after 10am and fled in a black Volvo SUV that had been reported stolen hours earlier. Police quickly located the suspects and pursued them. Shortly after the chase began, two of the men bailed from the vehicle in an attempt to escape on foot but were taken into custody.

The two remaining suspects continued towards the skyline of downtown Los Angeles.

As the men sped through congested residential areas with more than a dozen Sheriff's Department vehicles in pursuit and a police helicopter overhead, a back window of the SUV went down. A hand grasping a wad of bills emerged. Suddenly, money was fluttering to the pavement.

As he continued tossing the hundreds, fifties, twenties and lower denominations in bursts, locals left their televisions and took to the street. Police were forced to swerve to avoid people.

"It's a true blessing no one was seriously hurt," Captain Mike Parker, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said.

With each block, the crowds grew, as mostly young men cheered when the SUV sped by.

But, in the end, the generous ploy led to the suspects' undoing.

With so many people following, the streets became congested with cars and pedestrians.

As they tried to navigate along a clogged street, the SUV was trapped behind a truck.

The Sheriff's deputies jumped from their vehicles and yanked the suspects out of the car.

The suspects' identities have not been released, and police declined to say how much money had been stolen from the bank.

Gary Cabral, 25, was waiting for a bus when the SUV rolled past. "I saw money flying in the air, and I was like: 'Let's go get it!'" he said.

Cabral managed to grab five notes - all of them $1 bills. He split the meagre take among his two nephews.

Police urged people to return cash they found, warning it was a crime to keep it and they would use video footage to trace people.