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Police arrest knife-wielding suspect attempting robbery at Bank of Hope

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Robbery suspect. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Following a fatal shooting of a teenager on April 11, there was a bank robbery attempt in broad daylight in Koreatown in Los Angeles that led to a confrontation between the police and the suspect.

The incident happened at the Bank of Hope Olympic-Vermont branch on the corner of Olympic Blvd. and New Hampshire Ave. around 1:40 p.m. on April 13. According to witnesses, the suspect, who was wearing a navy blue suit and had his face uncovered, walked into the bank, approached the teller, and demanded money.

When the female teller refused, the suspect pulled out a folding knife, which prompted her to press the panic alarm.

“The suspect was not holding a knife when he first entered the bank,” said Kim Young-do, a security guard, who was present at the time. “The female employee asked him to wait a moment, pressed the panic button, and bought time by making conversation with him. Within a few minutes, the police arrived,” he said.

Upon arrival, the police cordoned off the bank and a section of Olympic Blvd. (from Berendo St. to New Hampshire Ave.) and evacuated the employees and customers inside the bank.

Meanwhile, the suspect exited the bank through the back door and got into his getaway vehicle (a black Infiniti SUV) in the parking lot. When the suspect refused to walk out of the vehicle, an armored vehicle from the SWAT team was called in to establish positions outside the vehicle.

Fifteen officers, including SWAT team, were deployed around the parking lot at the time. The officers were armed with handguns, rubber bullets and shotguns. According to witnesses, the suspect reportedly claimed that he had a gun and a bomb. However, officers on the scene said the suspect appeared to have a knife.

When the suspect continued to refuse to surrender, police used a K-9 to put psychological pressure on him, and at around 4:45 p.m., they deployed tear gas into the suspect’s vehicle. The suspect exited and was taken into custody.

“This was an armed robbery attempt and the suspect is believed to be a 25-year-old Hispanic male,” said Olympic Police Chief Aaron Ponce. “The suspect was in possession of a knife and made verbal threats to the employee.”

“No one was injured in the incident, and the details of the case are being investigated jointly by the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” he added.

Bank of Hope made an announcement that stated “the safety of our customers and employees is our top priority, and our senior executives personally visited the scene to check on them and ensure their safety. We are fortunate that there were no major injuries and the branch will be open for business as usual tomorrow (April 14).”

Meanwhile, this is not the first bank robbery that happened in the neighborhood. In January of 2018, a bank robber stole cash at the Bank of Hope Wilshire-Harvard branch near Wilshire Blvd. and Harvard Blvd. and escaped. No one was injured.

Also in May of 2017, a black robbery suspect demanded money to a teller at the Bank of America on the corner of Western Ave. and Olympic Blvd. while threatening to carry explosives.

In July of 2010, there was an attempted robbery at the Bank of America at Wilshire Blvd. and Normandie Ave. before the suspect fled the scene.

BY SUAH JANG AND YEJIN KIM [support@koreadaily.com]

Robbery suspect. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Robbery suspect. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Robbery suspect. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Robbery suspect. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]