Rockville bank robberies: Suspects strike at nearly neighboring banks

The second robbery happened at the Wells Fargo on Congressional Lane in Rockville. Photo: Brianne Carter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - Two Rockville banks were robbed Tuesday morning, and despite their dramatic proximity in time and location, detectives do not think the crimes are connected.

The first robbery took place around 9:35 a.m. at the SunTrust Bank at 1475 Rockville Pike in the Congressional North Shopping Plaza. Police say a teller was opening the branch, which only operates an ATM and drive-thru lanes, when a lone gunman approached the employee and demanded money. The two entered the tiny brick and mortar teller kiosk, where the teller handed the suspect an undisclosed amount of cash. The gunman then drove away before police arrived.

"It's a drive-thru and that's a bulletproof window, how could you rob it? I don't understand," longtime SunTrust customer Juma Mfizi said while sitting in one of the three drive-thru lanes.

Shortly after the armed robbery, bank staff taped a paper sign to the teller window. It read: "This branch is temporarily closed due to an emergency. Your understanding is appreciated." Residue from fingerprint dusting was also visible around the frame of the metal door, which the suspect and teller used to enter the bank.

"I can't believe it. It's crazy everywhere nowadays. You just don't know what to expect," Mfizi added.

Then at 10:58 a.m., a panic alarm led officers to the Wells Fargo Bank located directly next door to the Container Store - just a quarter-mile away from the SunTrust hold-up. According to eyewitnesses, two suspects entered the lobby, approached a teller and demanded money. One suspect then vaulted the counter, as his accomplice fired a shot from a handgun into the ceiling. Despite the dramatic display, investigators say the two robbers didn't get away with a single dime.

Beverlee Diamond's was sitting in the Wells Fargo parking lot while her husband Sean saw the mayhem unfold inside. "He called me actually to say 'please get in the car and lock the doors, they're shooting in the bank,'" Diamond said. "I was oblivious to it, I didn't see or hear the guns going off. I didn't even see them running off."

Detectives from the Montgomery County Major Crimes Division spent five hours combing the Wells Fargo location, paying particular attention to the ceiling where the bullet was presumably fired. Dozens of photographs were also taken and bank surveillance video reviewed.

"I was actually here at about 10 a.m. doing some other banking and then I came again to do more now. I'm glad I wasn't here when it happened," Rockville CPA Danny Glazer said as he overlooked his bank surrounded by squad cars with flashing lights.

As of Tuesday evening, police had not released a description for any of the three suspects or their getaway vehicles. Police have said no one was injured during either crime.

"This has always seemed like a safe shopping center. It just seems like something that would happen in the movies, not something that happens in real life," Congressional Plaza shopper Debra Tallman remarked.

Anyone with information should call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and/or indictment. Tipsters can remain anonymous.