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Armored car guard robbed at Danvers mall
By Andrew Hickey
Staff writer


DANVERS — A pair of "brazen" gunmen yesterday ambushed an armed armored car guard as he carried bank deposit bags inside a bustling, customer-filled corridor at the Liberty Tree Mall.

No shots were fired and no one was hurt, Danvers Police Chief Neil Ouellette said, but the duo made off with a large amount of cash.

Investigators said the two robbers ran up behind the Dunbar Armored guard just before 3 p.m. The guard was carrying two bank deposit bags he had just picked up from Kohl's department store.

Early in the investigation police said one bag contained an unspecified large amount of cash and the other was filled with checks.

One of the robbers, Ouellette said, pulled out a black semi-automatic handgun and the two demanded the bags. The guard dropped the bags and the robbers grabbed them and ran through the mall.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said the other robber may also have drawn a handgun, but the type of firearm was not known last night.

For more than three hours yesterday, police and the FBI swarmed the busy mall, just off of Route 128 on Independence Way. The corridor where the guard was robbed — between Kohl's and Bed Bath & Beyond — was sealed off. A large section of the parking lot in front of the hallway was cordoned off with yellow tape, attracting droves of curious shoppers.

The Dunbar truck sat idling in the fire lane just in front of the hallway door, where it was parked when the guard was held up. The driver of the truck, who stayed with the vehicle as the guard went inside, didn't know there was a robbery until afterward, Ouellette said. The driver declined to comment.

Marcinkiewicz said last night that agents were reviewing video surveillance tapes from inside Kohl's and other parts of the mall hoping to identify the gunmen. A security camera was visible outside the mall near where the truck was parked.

Investigators wouldn't say if the stickup men tailed the guard before robbing him.

Witnesses described the robbers to police as white men in their early 20s, each roughly 6 feet tall. One robber was wearing a brown jacket, police said.

It was unclear last night which way the robbers ran and where they left the mall, Ouellette said. Investigators dusted for fingerprints on the front and rear doors of the hallway. Witnesses did not report seeing a vehicle leaving the mall.

Though numerous shoppers were nearby at the time of the holdup, Ouellette said their safety was not in jeopardy.

"There is no reason for anyone to be concerned for their safety," he said.

Some shoppers, however, disagreed.

"It's a pretty brazen crime," said Bruce Gordon, of Gloucester, who was leaving Kohl's with his wife, Jeanne, just after the robbery. "It's scary, especially when there are guns involved. I guess it's a sign of the times."

Sophia Stephenson of Middleton called the holdup "sickening," and said she will be more cautious during future visits to the mall. She also was leaving Kohl's.

"Normally, I bring my kids to the mall with me," she said, adding that her children were not with her yesterday. "If my daughter was here she'd be petrified. It's going to keep me more alert."

Sean Gibbons, a spokesman for Maryland-based Dunbar Armored, said the guard who was robbed was the "hopper," the employee who goes inside to retrieve money. He said all hoppers are armed and trained when to use deadly force.

In this robbery, however, the hopper didn't have time to pull and fire his weapon, Gibbons said, calling the hold up an "ambush."

Gibbons would say little about the robbery, citing the safety and security of employees. He did recognize that carrying and transporting large sums of cash is a dangerous job.

"It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it," he said.

John Bobola, a Dunbar employee at the scene yesterday, said the bullet-resistant trucks typically run with two guards — the armed driver, who stays in the truck, and the hopper.

Marcinkiewicz said drivers are instructed never to leave the vehicle.

The Dunbar truck involved in yesterday's robbery was out of Lowell, said James Polimeno, Dunbar's general manager for Northern New England. Polimeno added that the trucks have been operating out of Lowell for seven years and this is the first robbery he can recall.

Danvers police, state police and the FBI are continuing the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Danvers Detectives at (978) 774-1388.
 
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