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Brink's Guard Killed in Bank Holdup : Crime: Another is wounded by robbers with high-powered rifles.

June 15, 1995|NICHOLAS RICCARDI and ERIC SLATER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WINNETKA — A Brink's truck guard was shot and killed and his partner seriously injured Wednesday in a noontime ambush at a Bank of America branch by two robbers armed with high-powered rifles capable of shooting through their truck's bullet-resistant glass.

The attack occurred about 12:30 p.m. as one guard was returning to the parked Brink's truck behind the bank on Roscoe Boulevard near Winnetka Avenue.

A robber, firing from behind a wall in the parking lot of an adjacent Arco gas station, ordered passers-by to turn away, shouting, "Get down, and don't look."

The guard returning from the bank was hit several times, witnesses said. A gunman then ran up to the truck and fired at the driver through the window, police said.

The driver returned fire but the robbers were able to grab a bag of money and flee in a dark blue or black Chevrolet Cavalier, driving slowly down Winnetka Avenue, police said.

An undetermined amount of money was missing from the truck, police said. Holes were clearly visible in the truck's rear windows, which are supposed to be bullet-resistant, police said.

Over two dozen shell casings were found at the scene. There were no other reported injuries in the attack, which occurred across the street from an elementary school during lunch hour.

Both guards were rushed to nearby hospitals. Herman Cook, 52, of Sunland, a five-year Brink's employee, died a few hours later at Northridge Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was hit several times in the abdomen, a Fire Department spokesman said.

The other guard--the 53-year-old driver from Pacoima, whose name was not released--was listed in serious condition at Holy Cross Medical Center Wednesday night with wounds in the neck, face and chest.

"He's alert and in good spirits," hospital spokesman Steve Rutledge said.

Cook was well-known at the bank, where he made regular deliveries, according to Sandy Racla, a financial services officer.

"He's just very friendly and very nice," she said. "He's a lovely gentleman, a very sweet gentleman." The guards "are like part of us," she said. "They're like family."

Police will meet today with the FBI to determine whether there have been other robberies using similar methods, LAPD Lt. Jim Razukas said, adding that the technique used was "unusual."

The shooting wreaked havoc at the busy intersection.

Two women, who asked not to be identified, were buying gasoline when the firing started. "I just put the nozzle in and I heard the first shot," the driver said. "They just kept firing and firing."

"He'd turn the gun towards us and say, 'Get down! Don't look! Get down!' " Then the gunman would continue firing at the guards, the other woman said.

"There were cars backing out of the parking lot and moving real quick," said Danny Green, who was doing repair work on the third floor of the Day's Inn overlooking the bank. Descriptions of the robbers by witnesses varied widely, Razukas said. Some said one robber was wearing a dark jacket with "Security" written across the back.

Witnesses said one gas station patron yelled for the Brink's guards not to fire on the gunman, saying, "He's security! He's security!" Then another witness shouted, "Then why is [the gunman] firing back?"

Racla, the bank employee, said the delivery regularity may have made planning the robbery easy. "Unfortunately," she said, "it's pretty much a scheduled thing."

Times staff writer Frank B. Williams contributed to this article.

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