Citizen Follows Getaway Car : Description Speeds Arrest of 2 Suspects

Times Staff Writer

Anthony David Aguilar told his wife he was sure something was amiss when he saw a man pacing and leaning against an old Volkswagen that was idling near an automatic teller machine in Westminster Sunday.

Aguilar, who lives in Garden Grove, was so suspicious that after he used the California First Bank teller machine on Brookhurst Street, he circled the car several times and made a mental note of its license number. He was particulary concerned for the safety of an elderly woman who was using the cash machine, his wife said later.

"All these other people kept coming up to the bank. He (Aguilar) couldn't believe nobody else was noticing this," Becky Aguilar said. She said the lingering man "just looked too suspicious."

Second Man Ran Out

The suspense was broken when, suddenly, a second man ran to the waiting car, a light blue 1967 Volkswagen beetle, from the Clark Drugs store behind the bank. The two drove away, but Aguilar, with his 21-month-old son in the back seat, was right behind them.

In the excitement, Aguilar forgot the beetle's license number, but he was determined to help apprehend the men. He followed them to the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Euclid Street, about two miles away, and jotted down the license plate number. "They didn't even look behind them at all--it was like they were getting away with something," Becky Aguilar said her husband told her later.

Aguilar then rushed back to Brookhurst Street to see if there was reason for his suspicion. There was. He found police investigating a 6:50 p.m. robbery in which $1,800 allegedly was taken from the drug store's cash register.

Aguilar, an education representative for Southern California Edison, gave police his information, and a bulletin describing the getaway car was broadcast throughout the county. Garden Grove police arrested two suspects in a Buena Clinton-area apartment about an hour later, Westminster police Officer Larry Woessner said.

Two Men Arrested

Ronald Patrick Hickey, 33, of Alaska and Paul Jonathan Burress, 31, of Tustin were charged with robbery. No weapons were recovered, Woessner said.

The men were held in Orange County Jail on $50,000 bail each.

"He (Aguilar) said he would have followed them all night long if he didn't have the baby in the car with him," Becky Aguilar said. "He is concerned about the community."

"He is very civic-minded," a friend of the Aguilars added.

Woessner called Aguilar's actions "very valuable. Without someone like that coming forward, the chances of finding (the suspects) are nearly impossible."

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