A holdup man who slipped through a labyrinthine security system of electronic codes and access cards shot to death four bank guards, locked up several employees and escaped with at least $100,000, authorities say.
The bodies were discovered in the heavily secured lower levels of the United Bank of Denver. Three guards, including a trainee, were found shot to death in a control room where they monitored the bank with video cameras, police said."This is a particularly brutal robbery. We haven't had people killed in bank robberies, other than the robber, in the last five years, maybe longer," said Denver FBI spokesman Dick Schussler. "Occasionally, a guard will get roughed up or grazed by a bullet, but never killed. I can't remember a case like this."
The robber's ability to thwart the security system Sunday led to speculation that he knew his way around the bank or had help from an employee.
"I think that would be safe to assume," said police spokesman David Neil. "The bank is of such a configuration that you have to know what you are doing. There may have been more (than one robber) because there is such an elaborate operation downstairs. He had to have an access card or somebody with an access card."
Video cameras monitor the building, and coded electronic access cards are needed to get through doors and to operate elevators on weekends and evenings. Employee codes also are required to enter parts of the building.
Police described the level where the control room is situated as a labyrinth of corridors and rooms, divided by bullet-proof glass, reinforced doors and other, high-tech barriers.
The control room is next to the concrete-reinforced vault, which was found locked and untouched, police said. However, adjacent money rooms, with receipts from businesses that operate on weekends, were full of cash, police said.
The fourth guard was found shot to death in a storage area on the level below that of the control room, police said.
A skeleton crew of employees was counting weekend receipts in the cash rooms when the robber walked in about 10 a.m., police said. "The man grabbed 20s and 50s. There was at least $100,000 sitting there," said staffer Alan Schneider.
The robber then ordered five to six employees into the bank's "man trap," a highly secured room, he said. Access is from one direction only and one door must be shut before a second can be opened with a code, Schneider said.
One employee hid from the robber, and others used elevators to go upstairs and alert police, Schneider said.
A search began for the guards after they failed to respond by radio, police said. By around 11 a.m., police had worked their way to the control room and forced their way in, finding three victims.
Believing the robber may still have been in the building, police swept the 52-story building from the top down. It wasn't until about 6:30 p.m. that the body of the fourth guard was found on a lower level, police said.