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A Parade of Seven Chases Down Bank Robbery Suspect

October 30, 1985|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

It was an unlikely group of heroes who captured a bank robbery suspect in Garden Grove on Tuesday afternoon.

First, there was the bank employee who chased the suspect down Westminster Avenue. Then two women, longtime best friends who had just finished eating fried chicken in a car across the street from the bank, joined the chase. Then four teen-aged boys in a car, who heard the women honking, brought up the rear.

"I tell you, it was something!" said Deborah Page of Westminster, driver of the chase car. "There we are eating chicken, and the next thing we're chasing a bank robber. I mean, us."

A suspect, later identified as Ralph Leuvanos, 51, a transient, was held by the teen-agers until police arrived. Police said they recovered $550.

Garden Grove police said a man entered the Security Pacific National Bank at Westminster and Brookhurst avenues about 1:40 p.m., told a clerk he had a gun and demanded money. The clerk turned over $550 from the cash register. The man then left hurriedly, turned east on Westminster Avenue and began running.

Page and her friend, Dory Scheller of Orange, both 33, were in the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.

Hours later, Scheller talked about it: "I saw this short, fat man running from the bank and I told Debbie, 'There goes a bank robber.' She thought I was joking. I was joking at first.

"Then we saw this guy in a suit come out of the bank and run after him. Then we heard the alarm. Then we saw that the man chasing him was losing ground. That's when I told Debbie, 'Let's go! He's getting away!' "

The women's car passed the bank employee, and they saw the suspect turn off Westminster onto Dawson Street, heading south into a residential area.

The four teen-agers were in a car near the corner. They heard Page honking her horn frantically. Page said she yelled at them: "It's a bank robber! We don't know if he has a gun!"

At that point, the women said, the suspect had run into an alley near an apartment complex. Scheller jumped out of the car and chased him on foot.

"I don't know," she said later. "I didn't stop to think if he might shoot me. It was just all spontaneous. Someone robs a bank, you chase him."

The four teen-agers, spotting Scheller on foot, jumped from their car and joined the chase.

Page, meanwhile, drove down another alley where it appeared the suspect might be heading. He jumped a fence in front of her.

"When he spotted me, he made a U-turn right back over the fence," Page said. Scheller shouted, "Where did he go?" and Page pointed. He had run into the four teen-agers, who grabbed him. Neighbors who heard the commotion called police, who took the man into custody and later booked him on suspicion of bank robbery.

Page said she thought she saw the suspect with a gun at one point, and Scheller said she heard an officer say a gun had been recovered. Police statements about the incident later did not say anything about a gun.

Police statements did not include the identity of the bank employee.

The four teen-agers were not identified at the request of their parents. They all attend Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove. Two of them are 16, one 15 and another 17.

Page, who has a husband and two children, and Scheller, who is "like an aunt" in the Page family, have been best friends for 18 years.

This is Scheller's second bank-robbery experience. A few years ago, she was inside a bank when it was robbed.

Later on Tuesday, after giving statements to the police, the women still were excited. And they were proud of their fellow chasers.

"If those four teen-agers are the future of this country, then I'd say we're in pretty good shape," Page said.

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