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Ex-Officer Was Robber, Bank Worker Testifies

March 11, 1999|DAVID ROSENZWEIG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An assistant bank manager testified Wednesday that she is certain that the armed robber who stole $722,000 from her Bank of America branch near USC was former Los Angeles Police Officer David Anthony Mack.

"I saw him good," said Leportia Davis, the first prosecution witness in Mack's federal court trial.

Davis said she carefully studied the robber's eyes, mustache, facial blemishes, build, clothing and automatic weapon when he confronted her and another employee inside the vault of the Jefferson Boulevard bank Nov. 6, 1997.

Still vivid in her memory, she said, were his eyes, which she testified were visible through his tinted glasses.

But both co-worker Rhea Edwards and a security guard who was stationed outside the vault testified that the robber wore glasses too dark to see through.

During cross-examination, Mack's lawyer sought to raise doubts about how good a look Davis actually got of the robber in the vault.

Defense attorney Donald Re quoted Davis as saying during a pretrial hearing in July that she caught "a quick glance" of the robber before he ordered her to stop looking at him. He speculated that she had only 15 to 20 seconds to observe the gunman.

"I don't know. I didn't time it," Davis responded.

The defense lawyer also suggested that Davis' observations might have been skewed because she was frightened and because co-worker Edwards was showing signs of having an asthmatic attack.

But Davis stuck to her story, picking out Mack as the bank robber as he sat beside his lawyer at the defense table. "Do you have any doubt that the defendant is the man who robbed the bank?" Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen G. Wolfe asked at the end of her testimony.

"I don't have any doubt," she answered.

Edwards also stood by her identification of Mack, although she was forced to acknowledge giving contradictory descriptions of the robber.

Immediately after the holdup, she told police he was 25 to 33 years old, weighed 200 to 220 pounds and had a thick mustache.

On the witness stand Wednesday, she testified that his mustache was of medium thickness, that he weighed 180-200 pounds and that he was in his 40s.

Re accused her of changing her story after stealing a look at Mack, 37, seated inside the courtroom before she was called to testify. She admitted peering at him through a courtroom door window, but denied altering her story because of that.

Edwards also was grilled by Re about her selection of Mack from a police photo spread a month after the robbery. She said she picked him because he bore some features that matched those of the robber. And she conceded that when shown the "six-pack" photo display, she assumed one of the people depicted was the suspect.

Mack, a highly regarded nine-year LAPD veteran and former track star at the University of Oregon, was arrested a month after the bank robbery and has been held without bail since then.

FBI and LAPD investigators found evidence after the robbery that Mack had used cash to repay thousands of dollars in debts, deposited $8,000 into his checking account and purchased a Chevy Blazer as well as expensive car stereos and household furnishings.

Authorities said he was helped in the takeover robbery by two male accomplices who got away and by a former girlfriend who worked in the bank.

The woman, Errolyn Romero, allegedly ordered an excessively large amount of cash on the day of the holdup and then buzzed Mack through two bulletproof doors into the bank's vault. Romero says she acted under duress. She will be tried separately.

Most of the money has not been recovered.

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