One woman was pistol-whipped in the head Friday morning when three masked men - at least one of them armed with a gun - robbed a Lodi credit union.
The female employee at Mokelumne Federal Credit Union, 531 N. Ham Lane, is expected to fully recover from her injuries, police said.
Police do not know if the robbery is connected to a similar July 2005 incident less than a mile away, in which the robbers also took over a bank and then ditched their stolen getaway car.
Around 9:35 a.m. Friday, three men dressed in black, with masks over their faces, entered the business, pushing a male customer and his wife into the bank as they entered. However, the woman ran and was not injured.
The men ordered everyone in the bank to the ground, demanded cash, hit the employee and soon ran out the northern door, Detective Leo Ramirez said. Witness Dave Bedford, who was driving south on Mills Avenue at the time, saw the three men run to a car parked in front of the bank.
Bedford saw a red explosion as a dye pack in a bag with the money burst, then watched as the man threw the flowered pillowcase to the ground and fled. The car drove off and turned right on Yosemite Drive.
Officers converged on the scene, some looking through the neighborhood for what witnesses said was a faded blue or gray four-door sedan.
Shortly after the robbery, Detective Nick Welton began looking through local apartment complexes.
Welton found a car possibly matching the suspect vehicle at 928 N. Rutledge Drive. Officers soon learned the car had been stolen in the Bay Area.
In late July 2005, two armed, masked men had robbed the Farmers and Merchants Bank at Turner and Lower Sacramento roads, left in a stolen car and then ditched it in a nearby apartment complex.
However, Ramirez said that as of Friday afternoon, police had no evidence to connect the robberies. They also had not confirmed if the Buick LeSabre, found at the apartment complex, was actually the car used in the robbery. An evidence technician arrived to dust it for fingerprints and noted footprints across the trunk and top of the battered car.
Police do not know how much money was taken, or if the robbers got away with any money that was not damaged by the dye.
Police asked anyone with information on the robbery to call Detective Leo Ramirez at 333-6872. Anonymous callers, who may be eligible for a cash reward, may contact Lodi-Area Crime Stoppers at 333-6771.
Caught (dyed) red-handedDye packs are slipped inside stacks of bills, and are so thin and flexible that they can't be noticed.
Inside the dye pack, a radio receiver is activated when the dye pack is moved beyond the teller's window.
Most dye packs contain an aerosol gas that releases red smoke and dye. It burns and sometimes injures the suspect, as happened in a Lodi bank robbery last year.
The explosion usually makes thieves drop the money, and it also stains the money to the point that it's worthless. The dye often lingers for days on robbers' bodies.
First published: Saturday, February 17, 2007