Law enforcement officials detail what they know so far about an East LA bank heist that involved the branch manager allegedly being kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to open the vault. Investigators say they re treating the woman as a victim and are looking to surveillance footage for clues of the suspects, which remained at large several hours after the incident. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2012.
The search continued Thursday for two masked men who kidnapped a bank manager in Huntington Park, held her overnight, attached a supposed bomb to her and then had her take money from an East Los Angeles bank, according to the LA County Sheriff's Department.
Images: Device Detonated at East LA Bank
Investigators are looking to surveillance camera to provide leads in the case and are questioning the female victim, among others, officials said during a Wednesday news conference. Officials at that news conference repeatedly stressed that details would be scarce as the investigation is "fluid."
The woman, who was not being identified, was abducted from her home in Huntington Park on Tuesday, LASD Capt. Mike Parker said.
"She was held against her will until the morning," he said. "At about 8:30 this morning, she was at the bank. It is unclear at this moment whether she was brought to the bank or drove herself here."
"She went into the bank, and she told another employee or employees that she had this device attached to her, and that she was demanded by the robbers to (get) the money from the bank and throw it outside," Parker said.
The SWAT force, bomb squad, sheriff's deputies, and the fire department responded to the Bank of America branch, located at 941 Atlantic Blvd. (map).
Aerial video showed a deputy removing a small, dark-colored object from the bank and placing it along a street curb. Shortly after, a bomb-squad robot was sent into the area.
At 9:30 a.m., an armored member of the bomb squad surrounded the device with what appeared to be sand bags. At 9:45 a.m., the robot fired a projectile into the device (pictured, below). An apparent shell casing was discharged from the robot.
Investigators do not believe the device posed a threat to the employee, Lt. Neal Mongan with Huntington Park Police said during a news conference Wednesday night.
The robot was then moved to a nearby parking lot to inspect the area.
Authorities are still searching for the two alleged robbers. Earlier reports noted the men fled in a Kia, possibly white, but late Wednesday authorities said they could not confirm a suspect-vehicle description. At least one of the suspects had a gun.
The area around Atlantic and Whittier boulevards was closed, and nearby Alliance Media Arts and Entertainment Design High School was placed on lockdown.
"The school called me and told me what happened in the bank," said Maria Arellano, whose son attends the school. "It scared me. I said, 'Let's go. I need to pick up my child.'"
"The safety and security of our employees and customers are our highest priority, and we are working closely with law enforcement on this matter," according to a Bank of America statement.
"Because this is an active investigation, we defer to the LA County Sheriff's Department what details to be made public at this time," the statement read.
The bank would not confirm the woman's employment status. It is now referring all questions to law enforcement.
Correction: A previous version of the story erroneously identified the scene of the kidnapping as Highland Park. The correct location is Huntington Park. Also, the article has been updated to reflect that a "device" was attached to the woman. Authorities could not immediately confirm if it was indeed an explosive.