Hostages recall terror inside bank

January 3, 2011 4:47:55 PM PST
We are hearing more about what was going on inside a Pearland bank last Friday when four masked men held customers and bank workers hostage. The first man released by the hostage takers explains why he was the first to be let go. The standoff unfolded Friday morning at the Chase Bank on Main Street between McHard Road and Orange Street. It lasted more than five hours, and ended with all of the hostages getting out safely and the two suspects in custody.

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 Friday's tense standoff.

As robbers took over the Chase Bank,an eyewitness who saw them enter called 911.

The caller said, "There were three guys that jumped out of the vehicle moving really fast, they had stuff in their hands. And they had their faces covered, and they ran into the Chase. The blue truck that was waiting for them is still sitting in the parking lot and no one has come out of the Chase."

Police arrived within minutes but two robbers had already escaped. Following a short shootout one was arrested, but Samuel Bonner retreated into the bank, taking hostages.

"Today I'm still la little shaken up," said former hostage Jose Moreno.

Moreno was one of five customers and five bank employees held at gunpoint. For hours he and others listened, they say, as Bonner went from enraged to passive and back again.

Moreno recalled, "He was on the phone screaming, screaming, screaming to the negotiator, 'Move these cars out of the way or I'm going to start hurting somebody.'"

But Bonner slowly began to let hostages go. Moreno was the first. He says it was only because he helped Bonner when the gunman instructed him to rip down the surveillance cameras inside the bank.

"It was scary really at that point," said former hostage Xuyen Phan. "I thought honestly I was going to lose my life, along with everybody else in the bank."

The last customer released was Phan. We could see her immediately running to an SUV. She had to promise Bonner she would start it for him if he let her go. She did, collapsing finally in the arms of a Pearland police officer after doing so.

But she didn't walk out of the bank without thinking of the two hostages who remained inside. Phan says she was compelled to confront Bonner and remind him that those hostages were people with loved ones waiting for them.

She recalled, "I said, 'Sir, you haven't hurt anyone today. I believe you did not wake up this morning thinking you wanted to hold people hostage. I hope that after I leave it continues to be that way that this ends up with no fatalities.'"

In all only the bank manager was wounded when the suspects pistol-whipped him.

Police are still looking for two suspects. Pearland police do not have good descriptions on those suspects. If you have any information which can help investigators find them, you can call the Pearland Police Department.

On Monday, police released the calls from people who alerted them to the robbery. You can hear those calls by clicking here.