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Man Robbed of Diamonds and Cash at Site of ATM Shooting in Tarzana

April 24, 1993|JIM HERRON ZAMORA and ALICIA DI RADO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A jewelry company employee was robbed Friday of $300,000 in diamonds and $500 in cash outside a bank on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, police reported, the day after an ATM patron was shot in the leg at the same location.

The victim Friday, whose name was not immediately released, was an employee of the Jewelry Mart in downtown Los Angeles who had taken a city bus to his Tarzana residence, police said. He was walking through the parking lot of the Bank of America branch at 18337 Ventura Blvd. when two robbers, one armed with a revolver, confronted him and took the money and jewels, police said.

Investigators suspect that the robbers followed the victim from downtown, said police Sgt. Alan Sorkness of the West Valley Division.

The holdup was not believed to be related to the shooting of a 20-year-old Encino man at the bank's ATM on Thursday. The Bank of America offered a $5,000 reward Friday for information leading to the conviction of the gunman in that incident.

The victim, J. Sandlin, was withdrawing $20 about 10:30 p.m. Thursday when a gunman approached and demanded money, said Detective Robert Johansen. When Sandlin refused, he was shot once.

The victim drove himself home and later was treated and released from a hospital, Johansen said.

"We are outraged by this violent assault on one of our customers," said Ron Nemitz, senior vice president and manager of the bank's West Valley District, in announcing the reward.

Friday's reward follows two other cases--in Sherman Oaks and in the Antelope Valley--during the past two months involving customers fatally shot near an ATM. In both cases, a suspect was arrested with the help of tipsters who came forward after the reward was announced.

On April 6, police arrested Robert Glen Jones, 42, in connection with the death of Sherri Foreman, a pregnant woman who was fatally stabbed during a carjacking in the parking lot of a Sherman Oaks bank on March 30.

On March 16, a telephone tip led investigators to arrest Christopher A. Mann, 19, of Lancaster in connection with the March 5 killing of Hans Christian Herzog near a Bank of America ATM in Lancaster, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. A second suspect, Wesley Harper, 24, of Lancaster was arrested March 18.

Both slayings have been used as examples by authorities that violent criminals are targeting ATMs.

Of the six ATM robberies this year in the West Valley Division, all have occurred after 8:30 p.m., he said. Three were along Ventura Boulevard, and the others were in Warner Center, Johansen said.

"No ATM is safe after dark," he said. "If you have to use one, take precautions and never go alone."

Bank representatives and authorities said customers should park their cars in well-lighted areas, use well-lighted ATMs, avoid cash machines with nearby hedges or hiding places, and bring company if a transaction must be made at night. Customers should spend as little time as possible at the machine, cash should be put away immediately and customers should be alert at all times and ready to cancel a transaction if strangers appear.

"The best thing would be to have two people go up to the machine and have one keep watch while the other is getting money," Johansen said.

Harvey Radin, a Bank of America spokesman in San Francisco, said the bank plans no specific new measures as a result of Thursday's shooting but would review security there to see what changes may be necessary.

Radin said that all Bank of America clients have recently been sent a pamphlet on safety tips with their monthly statement.

The California Banker's Assn. has also adopted guidelines for ATM safety, said association spokesman Tom Celebrezze, and is encouraging members to distribute safety information to clients.

"Unfortunately crime across the board is on the increase so we are also trying to emphasize personal responsibility," said Celebrezze. "We encourage you to be careful and to use ATMs in convenience stores after dark if possible."

Sen. Charles Calderon (D-Montebello) has sponsored several bills dealing with ATM safety and he plans to introduce more in the next legislative session, his staff said Friday.

These would include a bill, similar to one rejected last year, that would require banks to report all ATM crimes to the state Department of Justice. Currently law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles police, do not tabulate ATM-related robberies separately from other robberies.

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