Robber Takes Hostages During Bank Holdup

By Jill Leovy

An armed robber took as many as nine people hostage in a Bank of America branch in Exeter, Calif., on Wednesday after employees alerted police.

The incident began about 5 p.m. as the bank was closing, said Jim Houck, city editor of the Visalia Times-Delta newspaper, who was monitoring the incident over police scanners.

Displaying a handgun, the man demanded money, then took the bank employees hostage and told negotiators to provide him with a car. He released four of the hostages, including a woman and her baby, but continued to hold the others inside, including the bank’s manager and at least one clerk and one teller.


The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT team was called in to negotiate with the robber. Shortly before 8:30 p.m., deputies secured the release of a female bank employee, said Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Douglass. Meanwhile, the other four hostages were able to contact relatives from inside the bank on cellphones, he said.

A loan officer who was being held hostage told a Reuters wire service reporter over the phone that the robber wanted $100,000.

“There are just four of us left here,” Rebecca Tejada said in a hushed voice from inside the bank. “He wants all of us to leave with him in the car.”

She said no one had been hurt, and that the robber was talking to them calmly. The stolen money was in a suitcase.

“He’s very calm and he’s just telling us about his life,” she said, describing their whereabouts as inside the bank’s automatic teller room. “He’s not rude.”

Exeter is a small, orange-growing town of about 9,100 people at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Some bystanders outside the bank said they believed they knew the robber, but authorities couldn’t confirm his identity, said Houck, the city editor.


Lt. Douglass said deputies knew little about the robber, other than that he is an adult male. “We have been in contact with him a lot,” he said. “He’s still talking, and that’s a good thing.”


Times wire services contributed to this report.