Bond set for suspects in Pearland bank standoff

January 1, 2011 5:13:17 PM PST
Bond has been set for two men arrested following Friday's tense standoff at a Pearland bank, say police. Raymond Johnson, 29, and Samuel Bonner, 39, have been charged with 13 counts each of aggravated robbery and are being held on bonds totaling $13,000,000 each. They're facing one charge for each of the victims inside the bank during yesterday's tense standoff.

A busy part of Pearland was locked down for hours on New Year's Eve after police say Johnson and Bonner stormed into a bank and held employees and customers hostage.

The situation began Friday morning at the Chase Bank on Main Street between McHard Road and Orange Street. It's in the same parking lot as the Walmart and across the street from the Pearland Independent School District offices.

Pearland police say three or four masked suspects entered the bank and seized control of everyone inside. At least one of the suspects was armed.

A 911 call alerted police to the bank robbery in progress.

"About 11am a 911 call came from a witness who observed a couple of suspects going into the bank wearing masks. They were moving rapidly," said Lt. Onesimo Lopez with the Pearland Police Department. "The witness had enough snap to realize something bad was about to happen and called 911. Our dispatcher sent officers to the scene."

About 60 law enforcement officers, including FBI agents and SWAT officers, surrounded the bank.

Christina Hinojosa is the manager at the Loan Depot, right next door to the bank. SWAT officers used it as a shield after evacuating everyone inside.

"Very scary, very scary. I've never seen anything like it and hope I never have to again," said Hinojosa. "The cops came in here and told us we needed to leave."

Sharpshooters were laid out in the nearby Walmart parking lot, and hiding behind bushes and vehicles.

Police say at least two masked suspects with guns drawn demanded money from the safe. The bank manager resisted and was pistol whipped for it.

"He was just covered in blood," said Hinojosa.

A gunfight between the first responding officer and the suspects occurred as the suspects were trying to flee the back of the bank. Two suspects retreated back into the bank, while the remaining suspect or suspects fled the scene in a dark blue truck.

According to police, one of the two suspects inside the bank then attemped to flee through a back door. He was apprehended in the parking lot of a nearby Walmart. That suspect was identified as Johnson.

Bonner, the other suspect, remained and the hostage situation began with the seven people that were inside the bank.

Two hours into the standoff, around 1:30pm, five hostages were released by Bonner. Knowing only that the suspects were male, police manhandled the male hostages once freed. There were an additional three hostages hiding in a closet, but the suspects were unaware of their existence.

As the curious watched, one by one, those five hostages were released including Malford Lewis.

"I was worried the whole time, making sure, praying he was OK," said Lewis' girlfriend, Donetta Garden.

Around 4pm, after five hours of negotiating, Bonner released the final two hostages and surrendered. He didn't get what he wanted.

"The second suspect was trying to get to leave the bank without going to jail," said Lt. Lopez.

Two female bank employees walked out in front of Bonner, who was then taken into custody.

But it still wasn't over. A SWAT team then deployed a loud flash bang device and stormed the building to check for additional suspects, of which there were none. The three people hiding in the closet were released after the search. Police were aware of their presence, but didn't release the information to the public in order to secure their safety from the suspects.

"This ended the best way it possibly could," said Lt. Lopez.

A total of 10 hostages walked away unharmed. The hostages included five bank employees and five bank customers. Police are still questioning the hostages as well as the suspects to compile a minute-by-minute account of what happened inside the bank.

Police believe one or two suspects got away after the robbery and said that the dark blue truck that fled the scene of the robbery was later recovered behind a strip center in the 8300 block of W. Broadway.

Both Johnson and Bonner have lengthy criminal records that include aggravated robbery, rape and burglary between the two of them.

After the standoff ended, officials with Chase Bank issued the following statement:
    "We are very relieved that the situation at our Pearland, Texas branch was resolved and thank the FBI and police for their tremendous courage and help. We are working with employees and customers who were at the scene to provide any assistance they or their families need. Our branch manager, who was injured during the robbery attempt, was treated at the hospital and has been released."

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