La Habra Police Chief Ronald D. Meehan was driving home for lunch Friday when he heard a broadcast alert saying that two armed robbery suspects were headed east on Lambert Road not far away.
In civilian clothes and driving an unmarked car, Meehan doubled back on Lambert in the city of Brea so he could get a look at the suspects, who were driving a distinctive 1963 primer-painted red Chevrolet van, Police Lt. John Rees said.
"I don't want to minimize the chief's powers of observations," said Rees. "But it was not the world's best getaway car. It was an older-model, very unique vehicle and . . . kind of stuck out."
When Meehan spotted the van and confirmed its license number, he made a U-turn. Unknown to the suspects, the chief followed them in afternoon traffic to the Orange Freeway, Rees said. Meehan radioed his location to other officers as he followed the suspects.
At the freeway, Meehan was joined by two Brea police cars as the chase continued onto the northbound lanes, Rees said.
In Diamond Bar, the fleeing car collided with a pole at the Pathfinder Road exit, and the two men inside attempted to escape on foot. A Brea officer fired a single shot, hitting no one, and the suspects gave up, Rees said.
Booked on suspicion of armed robbery at the La Habra City Jail were Lloyd Dean Monroe, 26, of Ontario and John Webster Gross, 29, of Claremont. Police recovered $1,320 believed taken in the noon robbery of Western Federal Savings at Imperial and Beach boulevards in La Habra.
A customer had followed the fleeing suspects, gotten the license number of their van and returned to the bank to give the information to La Habra officers who responded to the robbery alarm, Rees said.
"It was a good job by the citizen . . . and by the chief of police and the Brea officers," Rees said.