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Los Alamos Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation swarmed White Rock Tuesday as they looked for a woman suspected of robbing Los Alamos National Bank at 77 Rover Blvd.
As of press time Wednesday, the suspect in Tuesday’s heist remains at large.
With police activity in the area, nearby Piñon and Chamisa Elementary Schools were in lockdown mode, as well.
Wednesday morning, the schools were back to a normal schedule.
But it was anything but normal Tuesday.
Witnesses say the suspect entered the LANB branch just before 1:30 p.m. and demanded money from a teller.
The teller gave an undisclosed amount of cash to the suspect, who put the money in a plastic grocery bag and left the bank.
The suspect was described as a Hispanic or Native American female in her late 20s or early 30s, approximately 5-feet-4 and weighing about 150 pounds. She may have a scar or tattoo below her left eye.
The suspect wore a black jacket over a black or gray hoodie. She also had on winter gloves.
Anyone with information about the bank robbery is asked to call the Albuquerque FBI Office at 505-889-1300 (24 hours) or LAPD, 662-8222.
Bank robbery is punishable by a 20-year prison sentence for each offense and the penalty increases if a dangerous weapon is used in the commission of the crime. The FBI also announced it may pay a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the suspect's arrest and conviction.
LANB President Steve Wells said Wednesday morning, “Our processes were followed to a T. Our first priority is the safety of the employees and the customers. We never comment on details of the case because we do not want to impede the investigation. They are our advocate in this. This is what they do. We don’t want to get in their way and we need their protection. There will be plenty to talk about the facts and details after the suspect is apprehended.”
Wells said the branch office was closed after the robbery, but was reopened Wednesday morning.
It was the second consecutive day that a Northern New Mexico bank was hit.
The FBI and Española Police Department were looking for a man who robbed the Wells Fargo bank at 645 N. Riverside Dr. in Española, Monday.
That suspect was described as a male, either white, Hispanic or Native American, in his 30s or 40s; approximately 5-feet-4 to 5-feet-9 tall; with a medium build.
The LAPD, meanwhile, was in constant contact with the school district after Tuesday’s LANB robbery.
“We were contacted by police and they said there was a bank robbery and they were looking for a suspect,” LAPS Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said. “We put a shelter in place and we are having parents pick up their children at school.”
The Piñon Elementary School website stated, “both Chamisa and Piñon will keep students in school until parents/guardians pick them up this afternoon. In cooperation with the local police, we are following this procedure as a safety precaution as they continue their investigation of a bank robbery suspect(s) potentially in the area.
Police patrols have been beefed up in the area around the schools and increased police presence at the schools while parents pick up their children.”
Principal Debbie Smith said there are 270 children at Chamisa and only eight of them take the bus.
“Everyone has been really good. As a precaution, Piñon and Chamisa decided to release the children to their parents because we have so many children who walk home. We are just doing this as an extra safety precaution.”
Raymond Roybal, a Chamisa parent, arrived at school to pick up his child.
“It’s crazy here in White Rock,” Roybal said. “I guess we are living in a different world now.”
Another parent Delaney Rieke, who had two children attending Chamisa and another at Piñon, said, “There was some extra security measures but I didn’t mind jumping through some extra hoops. Better to be safe than sorry.”
Sandra Sorensen, the director of Sage Cottage Day Care located across the street from LANB, said, “I was surprised, being here with all these children was very disconcerting. They are currently on lockdown and have been on lockdown ever since this started at 2 p.m.”
Sorensen said she first noticed something was wrong when the police pulled up across the street.
So why was the FBI called?
According to its website, the FBI has had a primary role in bank robbery investigations since the 1930s, when John Dillinger and his gang were robbing banks and capturing the public’s imagination.
In 1934, it became a federal crime to rob any national bank or state member bank of the Federal Reserve.
The law soon expanded to include bank burglary, larceny, and similar crimes, with jurisdiction delegated to the FBI.
Now, as then, the FBI works alongside local law enforcement in bank robbery cases.