The tree-lined streets of Rossmoor were the scene of a massive manhunt Wednesday as Orange County Sheriff’s deputies and police from four cities searched for a suspected armed bank robber.
Police from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach and Cypress joined the deputies in the search, which began shortly after noon.
At large was a lone African-American man who was part of a group of five men who robbed a Union Bank in Huntington Beach.
All of the men were armed.
They fled the scene of the robbery in two cars, one of which was trailed by Huntington Beach undercover detectives to Lakewood, where two of the suspects were arrested.
The other car led police on a high-speed chase south on the 405 Freeway to Seal Beach Boulevard and into the Rossmoor neighborhood.
One suspect was arrested by Orange County Sheriffs near the corner of Silverwood and Donovan. One was apprehended by Seal Beach Cpl. Joseph Miller near Copa d’Oro and Foster.
The remaining suspect discarded his shirt and shoes and fled into the neighborhood.
A perimeter was set up around Rossmoor and a house-to-house search was conducted.
A bloodhound was brought in to track the suspect, who was believed still armed, by the scent from his discarded clothing. Five additional canine units were brought in.
By 1 p.m. there were as many as 35 police and sheriffs units in the area. Swat teams and sharpshooters patrolled the streets, checking each back yard, as helicopters from the Huntington Beach PD and the Sheriff’s Department circled above.
Around 3:30 p.m. a call was received from a resident claiming to have seen the suspect near the corner of Piedmont and Foster.
Residents at 11771 Foster St. were asked to leave their home when another sighting was reported.
Swat teams, sharpshooters, patrolmen and canine teams, all with guns drawn, surrounded the home while others searched inside the residence and the back yard. The residents waiting anxiously across the street were ordered inside their homes as the search continued.
Police estimated that five guns were used in the robbery. Since only one was found, it is believed the remaining weapons may have been hidden in yards.
Cypress police sent one unit to provide security at one of the schools in Rossmoor. There are three elementary schools in the neighborhood, and security was set up at each one.
Deputies and police conducted a search of every home with unsecured doors or windows or signs of forced entry. It was feared that the suspect may have hidden inside an unoccupied home and would have been there when the residents came home from work.
“That was a very real possibility,” said Lt. Dennis de Maio of the Sheriff’s Department. “A person can only get into a home through an unlocked door or window, with a key or by breaking in. So that’s what we looked for.”
The search was abandoned at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Lt. John Davis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said, “We conducted an extremely thorough and tedious search of the entire neighborhood, block to block, yard to yard and house to house. We feel confident that the suspect is no longer in the area.”
There are a few units from the Sheriff’s Department still in the area as a “precautionary measure,” said Davis.
By Cheryl Scott