Police make quick arrest after bicyclist robs Sunny Isle Scotiabank
Published: October 3, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Quick response by V.I. Police officers resulted in the apprehension of a gunman, just moments after police received reports of an armed robbery at the Scotiabank in Sunny Isle mid-morning Wednesday.
St. Croix Police Chief James Parris said shortly after the robbery that the lone gunman - now identified by police as Gilberto Serrano, 27, of Estate Queens Quarters - went into the bank and approached one of the tellers and demanded money as he brandished a firearm.
Parris said a teller turned over an undisclosed amount of cash and Serrano left the bank.
The tellers and a number of customers in the bank were visibly shaken by the incident, but no one was injured during the robbery.
Parris said an ambulance that responded, provided minimal medical attention to one person inside who was not physically injured by the robber.
Witnesses in the area reported to police that Serrano was seen heading east, riding away from the bank on a bicycle with a handgun in one hand and a money bag in the other hand. He traveled through the Sunny Isles Annex parking lot, continuing north on Bennie Benjamin Drive.
Parris said as word was given to emergency dispatchers, they aired a description of Serrano and the direction he fled to all units. An off-duty officer, traveling in the area less than five minutes after the robbery, saw Serrano riding his bicycle on the road and gave chase, Parris said.
Units already responding to the scene continued to the area where Serrano was seen. Screeching tires and blaring sirens were heard as more than four police units raced across the busy commercial area to offer assistance in Serrano's apprehension.
Officers took Serrano into custody on Bennie Benjamin Road, near Rams Auto Body Repair across from Queens Quarters residential area, completely blocking off the roadway and bringing traffic to a grinding halt. After some time, an officer began directing traffic through the residential community to bypass the police scene and enabled traffic to begin flowing again.
Parris said that when Serrano was taken into custody, he still was armed and was carrying the stolen money from the bank.
Back at the bank and in the surrounding area, dozens of bystanders flocked to the roadside to watch the police activity, many expressing shock that another daylight armed robbery had occurred.
A frantic relative of Serrano's arrived at the bank, saying she had been called by a friend who had seen Serrano coming out of the bank with a handgun. She said he recently had lost his job and had been depressed.
Bystanders described the man they had seen running from the bank and what he was wearing, which helped Serrano's relative confirm that it was him.
Raphella Thompson said she was on her way to the bank when she heard the sirens but did not think the problem was at the bank.
"I usually come to the bank to do banking for my friend early and go back home, but it seems like you can't even go out in the morning anymore," she said.
Dozens of police officers swarmed around the bank to conduct interviews with potential witnesses and gather evidence. Other officers kept a perimeter outside, turning away banking customers who were unaware of what had transpired and were trying to conduct business.
Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. commended the rapid response of his officers and Serrano's speedy apprehension.
"Our officers are on high alert and will continue to react swiftly in these situations, as well as be diligent in the collection of evidence pursuant to each investigation," he said.
The bank remained closed Wednesday and is expected to resume normal business hours today, according to bank managers.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.