An armored truck carrying nearly $3 million was hijacked Friday in Commerce as one of the guards was making a bank delivery, sheriff's deputies said.
As the guard returned to the bank parking lot, he saw the vehicle leaving with his colleague and the carjackers inside, said Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Jablonsky.
The robbery is believed to be one of the largest Southern California armored truck robberies in recent years--the second time in six months that gunmen have escaped with a seven-figure sum from the same company.
The vehicle, owned by Dunbar Armored, was discovered less than a dozen blocks away in Vernon. The driver, whose identity was not released, was shot in the chest and thigh, Jablonsky said.
The wounded driver was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition, the sergeant said.
A bulletproof vest saved the driver's life, deputies said. By Friday afternoon, the driver was talking to sheriff's detectives and FBI agents. He was expected to be released from the hospital late Friday, Jablonsky said.
Investigators are searching for at least three men dressed as security guards, but had no leads on their whereabouts, deputies said.
In September, at least four armed men pried open a door and entered the Dunbar Armored depot in Los Angeles, stealing more than $1 million. Officials from Dunbar Armored were not available for comment.
The Commerce robbery began about 9:30 a.m., when the bright red armored truck pulled into the parking lot of a Wells Fargo Bank at 5701 S. Eastern Ave., a business park with several other bank branches.
As one security guard, whose identity was also not released, went inside the bank to make a delivery, the other guard remained in the driver's seat, sheriff's officials said.
One witness told investigators he saw the armored truck being followed by three cars driven by men with walkie-talkies, Jablonsky said.
However, officials haven't determined how the carjackers were able to force the driver to open the door of the vehicle.
The armored truck drove out of the bank parking lot, turned west on Slauson Avenue into Maywood and then into an industrial strip of Vernon. It stopped at Heliotrope Avenue and District Boulevard, where the driver was shot.
Sheriff's deputies, alerted by the other security guard, arrived about 10 a.m. and found the wounded driver inside the armored truck. The windshield had been damaged, and all the vehicle's doors were open.
Alejandro Flores was repairing a car in a nearby residential area when he noticed the armored vehicle pull up and park. Popping noises came from that direction, he said, but he thought nothing of it.
"I heard the shots and saw smoke coming up, but I thought there was something wrong with the truck, like the muffler," he said, adding that he didn't see anyone leave the truck.
Down the street, Leola Emery was sitting at her kitchen table when she heard a rumble and thought a part had fallen off the truck after it drove quickly over railroad tracks.
"I looked and I looked for a while, thinking why doesn't someone get out of the truck," she said. "Then I returned to my crossword puzzle. Now I wish I'd watched longer."
Earlier this year, three robbers showered an armored truck with bullets at a gas station in Rowland Heights but were unable to open the door. In November, a pair of well-dressed gunmen were shot to death after they confronted two Brinks security guards making a cash pickup at a Beverly Hills bank.