URGENT Bank Robbers Take 17 Hostages, Demand $50,000 and Getaway Car
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Two men wielding revolvers burst into a southern Brazil bank Thursday, grabbed 17 hostages and demanded $50,000 and a getaway car, police said.
Police inspector Alcides Lorenzo said no one had been injured and that 20 police officers were surrounding the Bank of Brazil office in Goioere, a town of about 20,000 people 556 miles southwest of Rio.
Lorenzo said there were no customers among the hostages, all of which were male bank employees.
″Everybody is calm, we’re just waiting for the negotiations to end,″ a man who identified himself as teller Jose Marques and said he was a hostage told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from inside the bank.
Marques, 38, said the hostages had not been threatened or hurt and that they were free to walk around the bank. He said the captives were not frightened.
″Everything is calm,″ Lorenzo told the AP in a telephone interview earlier Thursday. ″We’re waiting for more money to arrive from a neighboring city. The bank didn’t have enough money to pay off the two.″
The money arrived in two armored trucks at 11:15 p.m. (10:15 p.m. EDT) and was transfered to a car that police provided, said police inspector Jose Barbosa Souza.
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 out. 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 produced revolvers and grabbed security guards’ guns.
Barbosa said the bank alarm, connected to a local police station, rang at about 6 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT) 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 20 million cruzeiros, 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 studies by labor union.
Police often have allowed robbers to flee in order to save hostages’ lives.