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2 customers disarm would-be robber

The suspect and two others are wounded after the gunman bursts into a Long Beach bank and starts shooting. 'It was the wildest experience,' one of the heroes says. 'It happened so fast.'

March 06, 2010|By My-Thuan Tran and Louis Sahagun
  • David Jones, 48, who jumped on the bank robbery suspect as he was wiggling away after another male customer grabbed him and wrestled his gun away, gets hugs from his 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, and his wife, Abby.
David Jones, 48, who jumped on the bank robbery suspect as he was wiggling… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

David Jones was chatting with a manager at a Farmers & Merchants Bank in Long Beach on Friday when a man wearing a red motorcycle helmet and a black leather outfit barreled through the door, pulled out a gun and started shooting.

Jones froze. People began screaming and falling to the floor. In the chaos, Jones watched as another male customer grabbed the suspect and wrestled his gun away.

Jones quickly realized the customer had been shot in the thigh, and the suspect was wiggling away, so he jumped on top of the man. His hand brushed against another gun underneath the suspect's jacket and he threw the weapon across the floor.

"It was the wildest experience," said Jones, 48. "It happened so fast."

Three people, including the suspect, Robert Gordon Lockwood, 51, of Long Beach, were shot and wounded during the botched robbery, said Lisa Massacani, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department. It's unclear how each of the victims or Lockwood were shot, authorities said.

The drama began when police responded about 10:30 a.m. to a report of a robbery at the community bank in the 2200 block of Bellflower Boulevard, Massacani said.

Alice Ramirez, a Southern California Edison meter reader, said she was making her rounds and was about to open the door to the bank when she heard four gunshots. "At first it sounded like heavy hammering and I thought it was construction work," she said. "Then I looked through the glass and saw at least three people lying on the floor. I ran out to the parking lot and saw two people in cars and yelled, 'I just heard gunshots,' call 911."

A few moments later, she said, a man emerged from the bank, motioning with his hands and shouting out to anyone within earshot, "Those were gunshots. Go, go, go!"

Bill Brant, 45, of Lakewood was working in his garden when he got a call from his ex-wife saying there was a shooting at the bank where his mother, Nancy, worked as a teller.

Brant immediately feared the worst: "I thought, 'maybe it was her,' " he said.

He rushed to the bank and discovered to his relief that his mother was not injured. He talked to her a few hours later during a break in questioning from police.

Brant waited on the sidewalk outside, and broke down and cried. He said he worries about his mother every day.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said.

As for Jones, he said it was not his intention to become a hero.

"At first, I didn't want to do it," he said of wrestling with the suspect. "I didn't want to have anything to do with the gunman. But once I realized what the other customer had done, I had to do something. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself."

FBI investigators and Long Beach police are investigating whether the suspect acted alone in the robbery. A red motorcycle was found parked outside the bank.

Police booked Lockwood on suspicion of attempted murder and bank robbery, said Lourdes Arocho, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles. Bail was set for more than $1 million.

Authorities also are looking into whether the suspect is the same man dubbed the Sport Bike Bandit, who has robbed multiple banks in Long Beach and Pasadena, said Arocho. The robber always wears a helmet, leather jacket and sunglasses, she said.

my-thuan.tran @latimes.com

louis.sahagun @latimes.com

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