Thursday, August 5, 2010

Armored car heist -- St. Louis, MO

Heavily armed bandits pulled off a daring armored-car heist early Monday morning in midtown St. Louis and fled with cash, the guards' weapons — and the armored car itself.

The guards were tied up with duct tape and locked in a vault, but police say no one was injured in the 5:30 a.m. holdup Monday inside the armored-car company at 3721 Grandel Square.

The business, ATM Solutions Inc., stocks ATMs around the St. Louis The area is west of the Fox Theater, Grandel Theater and the Sheldon Concert Hall.

The four men, dressed in all black and wearing masks, were armed with assault weapons. The armored car was found abandoned about eight blocks away, but the four robbers are still on the loose, said Police Capt. Mike Caruso, commander of the St. Louis Police Department's 9th District.

"It's certainly alarming, to say the least," Caruso said. "It was carefully planned. They knew what they were doing."

They apparently waited on the lot until the first employee arrived at 5 a.m., police say. They followed him into the gray brick building and took his gun away. They forced him to punch in the security code of the vault, then waited for a second employee, who arrived at about 5:30 a.m. The business requires two employees to punch in codes before gaining access to the money, police said.

"They knew it took two people to get into the vault," Caruso said.

The robbers took several containers of money, which could amount to millions, but police aren't saying how much was taken. They took the keys to one of the company's armored cars on the parking lot, loaded the money containers into the van and drove away.

The guards were rescued about 6 a.m. when a supervisor got to work and found them tied up. That's when they called police.

The parking lot has several surveillance cameras. Police were reviewing those tapes.

Police dispatchers broadcasting an alert for police in other jurisdictions said the robbers took a 2008 Ford Econoline van that had been modified to be used as an armored car. But that van was found about 7:30 a.m. in the 4400 block of Evans Street.

The van says "ATM Solutions" on the side. ATM Solutions Inc., based in Cincinnati, is an armored car company that replenishes ATMs. Police initially thought a second vehicle, an orange Scion, might be involved. Witnesses had seen the car idling nearby before the robbery.

One of the robbers was said to be armed with a small Uzi. Another had an AR15 rifle, and two carried .45-caliber semiautomatic handguns.

The guards' weapons were also taken: .38-caliber revolvers.

No shots were fired, but one of the robbers emptied live rounds from the guard's weapon onto the ground outside the building, Caruso said.

Paul Scott, a spokesman for ATM Solutions' headquarters in Cincinnati, declined comment on the robbery. He said it was too early in the investigation to make a comment.

The FBI and the St. Louis Police Department are working together on the investigation.

Police also recovered a black Pontiac Grand Am about 10:30 a.m. Monday in the 3700 block of Martin Luther King Drive. Police aren't sure if it's connected to the robbery.

This robbery is similar to the still-unsolved robbery at the United Missouri Bank in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 23, 1992. In that case, a Brinks Inc. guard was wheeling a dolly loaded with bags of cash from the bank vault to an armored truck. He was forced at gunpoint into a dark room and tied up with tape.

After that 1992 holdup, the robbers took an elevator to a 13th-floor restroom in the adjoining 20-story Equitable Building, 10 South Broadway, where they left white coveralls they had worn in the holdup.

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