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Masked, armed men take over F and M bank, escape with cash

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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005 10:00 pm

Two masked men brandished handguns Saturday and took over the Farmers and Merchants Bank on Turner Road, nine months to the day after the branch opened.

Nobody was injured during the 9:40 a.m. robbery in the Woodlake shopping plaza at the corner of Turner and Lower Sacramento roads, Lodi police Officer Hettie Schaeffer said.

The men left with an undisclosed amount of cash in a newer-model black Chevy Camaro with red paper plates, which police soon learned had been stolen. The car was later found abandoned at a nearby Turner Road apartment complex, where the suspects apparently switched vehicles and left in a silver Dodge or Chrysler vehicle, Schaeffer said.

Police are "investigating a possible connection" between Saturday's robbery and other recent ones in Lodi, Schaeffer said.

Though Lodi has seen about eight bank robberies in the past year, Saturday's was only the second "take-over" robbery in recent years.

On April 13, three masked men entered Bank of the West, 229 N. Church St., taking with them a customer who had been standing at the ATM outside. The suspects, with guns drawn, ordered everyone in the bank to the floor, then jumped over the counters and took money from the drawers, police said at the time.

The men fled the bank and ran past a school, across a residential street and through an apartment complex to a waiting vehicle, shedding clothing and red ski masks as they went.

In most Lodi bank robberies, a lone suspect quietly presents a bank teller with a note demanding money. Sometimes a weapon is displayed, and other times it is only implied.

Unlike Saturday's robbery, most Lodi bank robberies also happen in the middle of the week.

Though the Kettleman Lane Bank of America was robbed four times in less than a year, other banks have also been targeted.

The Farmers and Merchants Bank at 1020 W. Kettleman Lane was robbed twice last fall. Saturday's robbery was the first at the Turner Road branch, which opened in October.

The suspects in Saturday's robbery were described as black men wearing bulky sweat clothes and masks. They were between 5-feet-4-inches and 5-feet-9-inches tall, according to police.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Ken Slater at (209) 333-5541. Anonymous callers, who could be eligible for a reward, may contact Lodi-Area Crime Stoppers at (209) 333-6771.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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