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Calif. Bank Robber Holds Hostages

January 29, 2002

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ALHAMBRA, Calif. (AP) _ A robber claiming to have a gun took nine bank employees hostage Tuesday after demanding $50,000, authorities said.

Four hostages were released from the Cathay Bank branch three hours after the standoff began and two others escaped later, police said. All were unharmed.

The three employees remaining inside the bank _ two men and one woman _ were being used as intermediaries to talk to authorities via e-mail and telephone, Sgt. David Nater said. The gunman also demanded a ban on news helicopters flying over the area.

``He wants the police to leave so he can make good his escape,″ Nater told reporters.

The suspect, described as a man in his 30s, entered the bank around 9:25 a.m., not long after it opened, told employees he was armed and demanded the money, Nater said. Employees gave him an undisclosed amount of money and then triggered a silent alarm.

Authorities cordoned off four blocks surrounding the bank, clearing out residents and shopkeepers in the community 16 miles east of Los Angeles. Special weapons and FBI teams were called in to help sheriff’s deputies.

Cathay Bank, founded in 1962, was the first Chinese-American-owned bank established in Southern California. It has 19 California branches.

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