Escape by Trolley : Bank Robber Sees Red When Cash Explodes

Times Staff Writer

A bank robber fled a San Diego savings and loan Friday with a briefcase full of green.

But in the end, he wound up with a red face and mostly red money.

His problem: Bad timing.

As San Diego police spokesman Bill Robinson told the story, the suspect, described as a 40-ish white man, entered the World Savings and Loan branch at C Street and 3rd Avenue, brandishing a four-inch handgun.

He told a teller to fill his briefcase with cash.

The teller did so, and added a surprise--a packet of bills booby-trapped with red dye that was set to explode within a minute.

The robber left the bank and fled down 3rd toward Broadway. He paused and opened his briefcase, perhaps to place the pistol inside, Robinson said.

Just then, the packet blew up, spraying the suspect with dye over his face and upper body. The dye is extremely difficult to remove from the skin, Robinson said.

Still, the suspect managed to get away, taking the briefcase full of discolored money with him. Investigators believe he may have escaped by taking the San Diego Trolley.

"That's red, too," Robinson noted.

It isn't known how much cash was taken, or how much the robber might be able to salvage.

In any case, the suspect is considerably better off than another San Diego bank robber who, a few months ago, made the mistake of sticking the booby-trapped packet into the crotch of his pants.

He was quickly arrested--and treated for burns.

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