- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A gang of armed robbers similar to the one that has committed five other bank heists struck again yesterday, but this time it was video taped by a TV cameraman.

Three masked men robbed the SunTrust bank on the 5500 block of Connecticut Avenue NW, in the Chevy Chase area.

The robbery was similar to the five others since January in that several masked and heavily armed men executed the robbery in about 10 to 15 minutes, then burned the getaway vehicle.

Two masked men entering the bank about 11 a.m., fired at least one shot into the ceiling, ordered employees and customers to the floor, stuffed cash in bags and ran outside, according to officials.

But this time a WTTG-TV (Channel 5) cameraman video taped the final seconds of the robbery in which a female passerby is seen running away from the bank after spotting a masked man with an AK-47 automatic rifle crouched alongside a stolen green minivan. A few seconds later, the two other masked robbers, also carrying rifles, are seen exiting the bank and climbing into the minivan before it screeches across the street.

The tape also shows one robber stumbling as he rounds a corner outside the bank, then regaining his balance before getting into the van.

Our cameraman “saw the guy come out with a rifle and was stunned,” said Katherine Green, WTTG’s vice president and news director.

She said the television crew was taping a promotion nearby when it spotted the lookout bandit and became suspicious. Copies of the video were given to Metropolitan Police Department and FBI investigators.

“I saw two men, one with a black bandanna, another with some type of hood device, running with rifles in front of the bank,” said witness Sandra Joe Connor. “And as that happened, I called 911.”

Wayne Cauthen, another witness, said the side door of the minivan was open and that a person wearing a black mask was carrying a black bag with “red stuff” coming out of it.

There was speculation that a dye pack hidden in the currency had exploded.

The minivan sped across Connecticut Avenue and down a side street. It was burning when police found it one and a half miles northeast of the bank, at 26th and Northampton streets NW, one block from Rock Creek Park.

Nearby residents learned about the stolen van after they heard loud bangs, apparently from live bullets in the van that were ignited by the fire.

“These people are considered armed and dangerous,” said Mike Anzallo, chief of Metropolitan Police detectives. “The firepower that has been displayed in the past is a concern for police.”

During their escape at the third robbery, on May 10, the robbers shot at a Prince George’s County police officer as she arrived at a Chevy Chase bank in Temple Hills. The shots missed.

One shot was fired but again nobody was injured in the fifth robbery — on June 12 at the Industrial Bank in the 2000 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE.

A week later, the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers.

The other robberies were: Jan. 22 at the Bank of America in the 5900 block of Blair Road NW; March 5 at the Riggs Bank in the 7600 block of Georgia Avenue NW, and May 27 at the Chevy Chase Bank in the 5800 block of Eastern Avenue in Hyattsville. More than $300,000 was stolen in the first five robberies.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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