Takoma Park Bank Robbed, Hostage Escapes, Robbery Suspect Shot And Killed

7:06 AM, Jan 29, 2011   |    comments
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TAKOMA PARK, Md. (WUSA) -- Police shot and killed a bank robber, who was holding a woman hostage outside of the Capital One bank at 1181 University Blvd. Friday morning at 9:22.

Police officials say they have tentatively identified the suspect who died on the scene, but are not giving his name until notifying his kin. Police will try to officially identify him through fingerprints. They do say he is a Hispanic male in his 40s.

They believe the suspect is from the area. Police say they are looking at where the suspect lived and talking to anyone who knows him.

Police say there were five employees and one customer in the bank during the bank robbery. According to police officials, the suspect was wearing a hood, gloves, a mask and long coat when he entered the bank carrying a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and a fake explosive device.  He had another dummy explosive on his shoulder.

Montgomery County Fire and Explosives Unit would later determine the devices were kitchen sponges measuring 4" x 5" x 1", wrapped in aluminum foil, secured with duct tape, and with thin copper wires sticking out of them.

Police say when the suspect approached the teller, he was speaking in Spanish and demanded cash. He took out the handgun a customer saw what was happening and tried to stop the suspect by grabbing the weapon. The suspect then pistol-whipped the customer.


Police say they received three phone calls, including one from a teller that reported a package inside the bank, and another call from a teller that had run out of the bank, and a silent alarm.

Four officers with the Takoma Park Police responded within a minute of the silent alarm. They were patrolling in the shopping center area where the bank is located. They established a perimeter and Prince George's County Police and Montgomery County Police joined them.

Police officials think the hostage situation happened because police officers responded so quickly. They say that since the police arrived, the suspect went behind the bulletproof glass and held hostages. The suspect had also placed one of the dummy devices on the bank counter.

Fourteen minutes later, he decided to take his one hostage out of the bank with his arm around her neck around 9:30 p.m. He walked out with a money bag that had a dye pack stuck in it, without his knowledge. A bank teller had placed the dye pack in the bag when he got into a struggle with the customer.

When the suspect walked out of the bank, he was using a female bank teller as a shield and had one arm around her.

Police say at least 11 officers were lined up with their guns pointed at him. Several times, they told the suspect to drop the gun, and he refused. 

The suspect with the hostage reached the Starbucks next to the bank, when the dye pack inside the money bag exploded. The suspect stepped back, slipped on some ice, and the hostage broke free and ran. The suspect ran after the hostage with the gun pointed at her back.

Police say officers continued to tell him to drop his weapon but he did not. Once the hostage was out of his grasp, six officers -- three from Takoma Park and three from Prince George's County -- fired.

The suspect went down. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Three people were injured.

During a press conference around 4 p.m., police officials said a Prince George's County police officer had a gun shot wound to the leg, and the wound was probably caused after one of the rounds fired ricocheted and struck the officer. The injury is considered to be non-life threatening.  

The officer has been on the force at Prince George's County Police Department for 5 years assigned to District One.  He was treated and released from Prince George's Hospital Center.  The officer is now on routine paid leave.

Police officials also say a female bank teller was hyperventilating and had a minor scrape on her elbow. She was taken to Washington Adventist Hospital.

A customer, described as a good samaritan, is being treated at the hospital after the suspect pistol whipped him.  He remains hospitalized Friday night.

For the people in the shopping center, the most remarkable thing is that no one but the gunman was seriously hurt.

One witness said, "We've been complaining about the bad weather. And it saved someone's life today."

Montgomery County Police Cpl. Dan Friz said the SWAT team swept the bank to make sure there were no other suspects inside the bank. Now, police officials believe the suspect acted alone.

Police have not found any casings from the 9 mm handgun, so they do not think the suspect fired his weapon.

The identities of the officers who were involved in the suspect's shooting will be released Saturday, says the Montgomery County Police Department.

Montgomery County Police are conducting the investigation of the bank robbery and of the Takoma Park Police and Prince George's County Police officer-involved shooting incident. Both the Takoma Park Police and Prince George's County Police Departments are conducting internal investigations into their respective officer-involved shootings.

Anyone who has information about the suspect is asked to call 240-773-5100.

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