FBI: Homewood bank robbers caught after standoff
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com December 4, 2013 11:48AM
Updated: January 6, 2014 12:54PM
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, merchants at the Cherry Creek Plaza in Homewood on Wednesday had to contend with much more than just supply orders and shoppers.
They endured a dramatic, four-hour police standoff that started about 10:30 a.m., when two armed men robbed the Bank of America branch in the mall, 183rd Street and Governors Highway, and ended when Homewood police arrested them in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex about 2:30 p.m., according to FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde.
She said the robbers stole an undisclosed amount of money and fled on foot, and Homewood police soon apprehended a third man involved in the robbery. No one was injured during the holdup, Hyde said.
More than 100 police officers from Homewood, Flossmoor, Cook County and other local departments as well as FBI agents searched the area near the shopping center, tracking the robbers to the complex about a half-block west of the mall, where they surrounded a building and the standoff began, authorities said.
Margie Lorenz-Larocca, a sales manager at Lorenz Appliances in Cherry Creek, said she saw “cops fly to the back of the bank” and then rush over to the apartment complex. The store’s employees initially watched the drama unfold from their loading dock, but the police made them leave.
“I don’t know if it shocks me,” she said of the robbery. “It’s Christmastime. That’s when everyone is hard up for money.”
The mall parking lot resembled a small arsenal during the standoff. Police officers, including a SWAT team, milled about, and the Cook County sheriff’s police K9 unit was about to bring out its dogs for the search when the third robbery suspect was caught.
Yellow police tape closed off the 183rd Street entrance to the mall and the bank. Some residents of the Cherry Creek Towers condominiums, adjacent to the bank, were ordered to leave their homes during the standoff and were directed to the lobby of an insurance office connected to the retail center until the situation was resolved.
Rose Dempko, owner of the Her Closet store, said about eight customers remained in her store after police advised her about 10:30 a.m. to lock her back doors.
“We decided to lock the front doors to be safe,” Dempko said. “The women inside didn’t want to stop shopping.”
Dr. Lauren Saxe, an ophthalmologist at Ophthalmic Specialists, two doors down from the bank, said an officer wearing camouflage asked for access to the roof of the building about noon. She said afternoon appointments at the office were canceled.
Michelle Mills, an optician with the group, said she wished police had done a better job keeping everyone informed. Instead, the lack of information about the robbery freaked her out, she said.
“There are all these women working in the stores, some by themselves,” Mills said. “It would be nice if police said, ‘It looks scary but it’s under control.’ No one told us not to be scared.”
Justin Crutcher, 17, of Hazel Crest, said he saw SWAT team members in armored trucks rolling down 183rd Street and followed to see what was happening.
“It’s raw. They got the ‘Call of Duty’ dudes out here,” he said, referring to a popular video game.
Parker Junior High School, 2810 School St., Flossmoor, was on lockdown for a few hours, with no one allowed to enter or leave the building, a school official said. Homewood-Flossmoor High School also was on lockdown but was given the “all clear” as of 1 p.m.
Jeffery Boyed, a senior at H-F, said the lockdown announcement was made over the public address system.
“They told us to stay calm, stay in school, stay in classrooms, something was going on the area, that’s about it,” Boyed said, adding that he learned about the bank robbery on the way home. “It was kinda weird.”
Sun-Times Media Wire