Bank Robbers Take 17 Hostages, Demand $50,000 and Getaway Car
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Police officers today surrounded a bank where two armed robbers were holding 17 hostages and waiting for a crowd outside to disperse so they could make a getaway.
The gunmen had demanded a getaway car and about $50,000. Police said additional money and the vehicle had arrived at the bank late Thursday. Authorities said the building did not hold enough to satisfy their demand.
There were no reports of injuries.
Twenty police officers were stationed around the Bank of Brazil office in Goioere, a town of about 20,000 people about 550 miles southwest of Rio.
Police inspector Alcides Lorenzo said there were no customers among the hostages, who were all male bank employees.
″Everybody is calm, we’re just waiting for the negotiations to end,″ a man who identified himself as teller Jose Marques told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from inside the bank. He said he was one of the hostages.
Marques, 38, said the hostages had not been threatened or hurt and that they were free to walk around the bank. He said they were not frightened.
Police inspector Jose Barbosa Souza said the additional money arrived in two armored trucks and was transferred to a car that police provided for the robbers getaway.
Barbosa said the robbers were demanding that the branch manager and assistant manager, who were among the hostages, and Goioere’s police chief leave with them in the car.
He said the robbers told police they would wait through the night until a crowd of about 3,000 people that had gathered around the bank building thinned. Those standing outside the bank were relatives and friends of the hostages, as well as onlookers.
″The robbers said not to worry about the hostages, they will be safe,″ Barbosa said. He added that police were trying to persuade onlookers to go home.
Barbosa said the robbers talked security guards into opening the doors shortly after the bank closed, pretending to be late customers. He said they took out revolvers and grabbed security guards’ guns.
Barbosa said the bank alarm, connected to a local police station, rang at about 6 p.m. but he didn’t know what time the robbers had entered the bank. Brazilian banks usually close their doors to customers at 4:30 p.m.
All security guards and an undetermined number of female bank tellers were freed, Barbosa said.
The robbers demanded about $50,000 and an escape car, Lorenzo said. He said authorities requested the additional money from a Bank of Brazil branch but declined to specify which office.
Bank robberies have become increasingly common in Brazil, where inflation is running at a projected annual rate of 600 percent and the cost of living for the average worker has soared by about 60 percent over the last two years, according to labor union studies.
Police often have allowed robbers to flee in order to save hostages’ lives.