Bumbling Burglar Suspect Locks 2 Friends in Vault

A bumbling burglar accidentally locked two of his accomplices in an old bank vault in West Covina and it took emergency workers seven hours to cut them out early Thursday, authorities said.

The trio--machinist John Meacham, 21, truck driver Joseph Plante, 30, and gardener Joe Laattsch, 33--told police they were on an illegal salvage run in the soon-to-be-demolished Imperial Bank building at 150 S. California Ave., Detective Brent Moore said. About 7:40 p.m. Wednesday, Meacham came upon the open, empty vault and invited his friends inside to listen to the acoustics.

"The tumblers had been taken out by the demolition company so it would not lock," Moore said. "There's no reason they can figure out why this locked." After about 40 minutes of struggling with the door, Meacham called the Fire Department, which in turn called police. A concrete sawing firm eventually was called to extricate the men.

All three were booked on suspicion of burglary and held on $7,500 bail.

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