Two suspected members of a bank robbery team believed to have hit a number of area banks in recent months were arrested yesterday as they tried to make their getaway after robbing an East Baltimore bank, city police reported.
The FBI said the robbers have now held up three banks in the city and four in Baltimore County. In each robbery, three gunmen wore ski masks, timed the robbery with a watch and switched cars to throw police off their trails.
Yesterday's robbery occurred just before noon, when three masked men entered the Harbor Federal Savings and Loan in the 3200 block of Eastern Ave. and told customers and workers that a robbery was in progress, police said.
Two of the men, armed with handguns, hopped the counter to grab money out of the cash drawers while the third man stood watch near the door with a shotgun, police said.
"They were pretty organized, and they carried weapons, which is not what we see in a lot of robberies these days," said Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman.
After taking an undisclosed amount of cash, the men ran outside to a car and drove off on Eastern Avenue. But at the same moment they ran out of the bank, an off-duty Baltimore County police undercover officer was driving by in his car with his family, said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman.
The off-duty officer followed the car to Patterson Park Avenue, where the men pulled over, jumped out and got into another car parked in the area, police said. The officer alerted city police patrol officers about the car and they joined in the pursuit, attempting to pull the vehicle over. The suspects quickly stopped the car and bailed out, police said.
One man successfully escaped but the other two were chased on foot to a house in the 200 block of Patterson Park Ave., where the gunmen forced open the front door and ran inside to the shock of a male resident inside, police said.
Police ran in seconds behind the suspects and arrested them without incident, and the resident of the house was "given a pretty good scare but he wasn't injured," Mr. Ringgold said.
The two suspects were arrested and were expected to be charged with bank robbery last night. They were identified as Tony Wilder, 32, of the 3500 block of Abbey Court in Woodlawn, and Rodney Scott, 35, of the first block of Hiawatha Court in Owings Mills, police said.
The money from the robbery was recovered from one of the getaway cars, police said.
Mr. Ringgold said the men are considered suspects in six other robberies since spring in the city and the county. In each case, the style of the robbery was similar to yesterday's, and bank cameras got pictures of masked men seeming to have the same physical characteristics as those of the suspects, he said.
Special Agent H. Thomas Moore, a supervisor in the bank robbery unit of FBI-Baltimore, said the robberies have been "very professional," with a leader of the group yelling "Time!" to halt the robbery after a certain amount of minutes.
But the robbers' flaw has been that "they weren't very smart once they got the loot," Agent Moore said. "More often than not, they ended up dropping the loot after the dye packs exploded," he said.