Two banks and a savings and loan, all on Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, were robbed during the last week in a series of crimes police called highly unusual for the small city.
"We usually have at most five bank robberies in a year," Sgt. Vince Leone said of the crimes that took place Thursday, Friday and Monday. "We just had a run of bad luck."
Two men were arrested in connection with the Friday robbery when they got caught in traffic. Police are looking for two women, one black and one white, in the other robberies.
The first robbery was at First Interstate Bank, 2910 N. Sepulveda Blvd., where a woman entered the bank at 1 p.m. and demanded cash, saying she had a gun in her purse. A teller gave her $2,900, and the robber ran from the bank, Leone said.
In the second robbery, last Friday, two gun-toting men held up the Home Savings & Loan branch at 1800 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
"They said, 'This is a robbery, everybody hit the ground,' " Leone said. One of the bandits then vaulted behind the counter and pulled cash from tellers' drawers.
Police responded to a silent alarm set off by a teller and chased the two men as they sped east on Rosecrans Avenue, where they threw $1,500, a pistol and an Uzi-type submachine gun out of the car window.
The men were captured when they could not force their way through heavy traffic on Hawthorne Boulevard, Leone said. "They were victims of gridlock."
Peter Luis Zurita, 22, of Canoga Park and Alfonso Torres Lara, 21, of Sepulveda were charged with the robbery. Both men are being held without bail after pleading not guilty this week in U.S. District Court, FBI spokesman Fred Reagan said.
Zurita is a suspect in at least four other bank robberies, Reagan said.
The final robbery was Monday at the Security Pacific National Bank branch at 3016 Sepulveda Blvd. A woman who said she had a gun in her purse demanded that a teller turn over cash. The woman made off with $2,685.
Neither of the female suspects has been found.