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Texas Bank Bandits Still At Large; Thursday Robbery Left Police Cars Riddled With Bullets

November 04, 2004
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Texas Bank Bandits Still At Large; Thursday Robbery Left Police Cars Riddled With Bullets

Brazen, Heavily Armed 'Take-Over Bandits' Hijack Cars, Fire On Police During Getaway

By Kim Breen and Paul Meyer, The Dallas Morning News

Wanted: Armed & Dangerous
Guadalupe Mercado Fajardo (left) and Douglas Mark Ybarra have been identified as two of the three suspects.
RICHARDSON, Texas – At least three bandits armed with assault rifles remained at large Friday after a Thursday morning robbery of a Richardson bank that left police cars riddled with bullets and three motorists carjacked during the getaway.

Authorities have identified two suspects as Guadalupe Mercado Fajardo and Douglas Mark Ybarra, both 31. They said they did not know the identity of the third man.

"I think now that the two suspects have been identified it will aid us,” Richardson police Sgt. Keith Cannon said Friday. “I think we're in a lot better shape than we were before."

No one was seriously injured in the melee that sent startled bystanders ducking for cover as gunmen shot up at least five squad cars before officers lost them in southeast Plano.

Richardson police said two masked men entered American First National Bank on Greenville Avenue just after 10 a.m. and ordered everyone to lie on the floor while they jumped over counters and emptied cash drawers.

The robbers fled with an undisclosed amount of money. A Richardson police officer was slightly injured later by flying glass when they fired on his car.

"It tells you how dangerous and desperate these individuals are to get away," Richardson police Sgt. Kevin Perlich said.

The search for the robbers focused Thursday night on Wylie. A stolen Mazda believed to be linked to the bandits was found abandoned there around noon. Police say they may have fled in a beige 1994 Honda Accord reported stolen Thursday in Wylie. That car had Texas license plate P76 NZG.

On Friday, Sgt. Cannon said it was unlikely the robbers were still in the Honda. “I can nearly guarantee that they have switched cars at this point, since they've done it so many times," he said.

FBI investigators strongly suspect the robbers are the Takeover Bandits, said Special Agent Lori Bailey, a spokeswoman in the bureau's Dallas office.

The group is suspected in more than 60 aggravated robberies of banks, small businesses, convenience stores and restaurants throughout the area in recent years.

"I can't remember any group, since I've been here, that has gone on such an elongated crime spree," Agent Bailey said.

Richardson police said they received a call at 10:20 a.m. about a possible bank robbery just blocks from their headquarters.

'It happened so fast'

J. D. VEGA/Special Contributor
Investigators from the Richardson Police Department mark evidence at the scene of the shootout. (Photo by J. D. Vega/Special Contributor)
Tom Huang, a Dallas businessman, said the holdup unfolded as he stood at a service desk. Two masked men with guns walked into the lobby.

"They came in and shouted, 'Give me the money!' Someone told the teller to open the cash drawer. Then they told everyone to lie down on the floor and don't move."

Mr. Huang said about five bank employees and a security guard were in the bank, besides himself.

"It happened so fast. They came and were gone in less than five minutes," Mr. Huang said Thursday afternoon. "It was very scary. It took me about a half-hour to calm down."

Witnesses told Richardson police the suspects, armed with handguns and "AK-47-style" assault rifles, fled the bank in a dark-colored Honda. The car, which police say had been stolen, was found nearby on Terrace Drive. Police say they switched there to a second car, a red Chevrolet Suburban that may also have been stolen.

Driving north on U.S. Highway 75, the robbers opened fire on an off-duty Richardson police officer who, unaware of their presence, was driving behind them in an unmarked car. As the suspects turned east on Plano Parkway, they shot at a second Richardson squad car, slightly injuring the officer who had joined the chase.

Minutes later, the bandits carjacked a white Chevrolet pickup truck at Summit and Stewart avenues. A block away, at Jupiter Road and Summit, the driver ran a red light, striking a Pontiac Grand Prix and forcing the gunmen to hunt for a new getaway car.

Jason Brock, on a mid-morning coffee break, said he watched the action unfold as at least one man opened fire on a police car as it arrived at the intersection.

Herb Gloff, another witness, said the men were yelling at each other in Spanish.

"I heard a burst of about 10 shots at first," Mr. Gloff said. "It was intense."

Authorities said police did not return fire because they didn't have a clear shot and didn't want to injure innocent people.

Tonya Harvey and her co-workers at Electronic Environments Corp. watched the exchange from inside their building.

It looked like "every police officer in Richardson and Plano was after them," she said.

Stephanie Mitchell hid from the suspects and their "Rambo-looking guns" behind her truck in a nearby parking lot. "I just tried to get further and further away from them," she said.

When she made it inside the North Central Texas Workforce office nearby, she was shaking all over. "My biggest fear was they were going to come in here," she said from the office's lobby.

The gunmen tried to hijack a Hyundai. The car, occupied by a mother and her baby, was blocked, police said, so the robbers stole and fled in a gray Mazda, firing on a Plano squad car.

John Childress said people were running toward the building where he works, including the mother and baby who escaped the carjacking.

"She was freaking out," he said. "She was shaking." She was worried that the suspects would find her identification left behind and go after her. Mr. Childress said he told her, "You've got your life. That's all you need to worry about."

Police said four Richardson police cars and one Plano cruiser were hit by gunfire. The Plano car left the chase at Jupiter and Summit with its rear window shattered and bullet holes in its windshield and hood.

Robbers' escape

The bandits escaped after driving over fields, across road medians and through side streets of an industrial park.

"Somehow, they eluded us," Sgt. Perlich said. The getaway car was last reported driving east on 14th Street near Los Rios Boulevard.

Officers converged at the intersection. And with the curious watching from a grocery store parking lot and three helicopters circling overhead, eight armor-vested officers carrying assault rifles fanned across a field. Others stood along a railroad track or waited in vehicles.

Stacy Clark of Farmersville was headed west on 14th when the action unfolded in front of her. "It was frightening because we didn't know what was going on," she said. "We were stuck at the light, and they had all those machine guns.

"I thought it was a terrorist thing. It seemed major."

Staff writers Roy Appleton, Tim Wyatt, Tiara M. Ellis, Mike Jackson, Linda Stewart Ball, Lee Powell, Matt Stiles, Esther Wu, Jennifer Emily and Holly Yan and Dallas Web staff writer April Kinser contributed to this report.

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