When Seafus Richardson reported for work in University City on Thursday, he was looking forward to a change of pace. The construction inspector, who usually works in the suburbs, expected a faster-moving day in the city.
But not as fast as speeding bullets, which caused him and others to take cover around 10 a.m. when two armed thieves attempted to steal money bags from armored-car guards at the busy intersection of 36th and Market Streets.
“When I am in the city, it’s usually more exciting, but not this exciting,” Richardson joked. He said he heard about 20 shots in all.
No injuries were reported.
Two guards from the Garda security firm began firing their weapons upon seeing two masked bandits approaching, one pointing a rifle, the other a handgun, Philadelphia police said.
The thieves fled empty-handed without firing their weapons and were still being sought, Detective Bureau Chief Inspector Frank Vanore told reporters at the crime scene.
After the shooting stopped and police took control of the scene, stacks of $20 and $10 bills could be seen scattered on the sidewalk where one of the guards had dropped a black money bag after being confronted by the robbers.
"It was just like a movie scene, ” Richardson, 36, said. The failed heist was, indeed, captured on film.
“We have a lot of video at this location," Vanore said. "We have Drexel, we have Penn, we have private cameras that we are now viewing.” He said the city Police Department was assisting the FBI in the investigation.
Vanore said it appears the thieves knew of the delivery of cash to the PNC Bank ATM machine in the unit block of 36th Street. “Very brazen,” he said of the crime. “But it was calculated. They obviously knew the drop was happening.”
An hour after broadcasting an alert for a maroon Chevrolet Trailblazer with bullet holes in it, police found a vehicle fitting that description with its windows blown out in nearby Powelton.
The robber with the rifle fled on foot eastbound on Market Street, while the robber with the handgun fled in the maroon Trailblazer with another person northbound on 36th Street, Vanore said.
Besides the SUV, police recovered a bag full of cash, gloves, a mask, a holster, and a handgun and determined the robbers’ apparent escape route.
Alex Moser, 34, who owns the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop at 36th and Market, said it was “really unfortunate” that some nearby businesses “have to lose all of our business during lunch time, based off of a bank robber." Moser said police sealed off the sidewalk in front of his store at around 11:30 a.m.
Moser also suspected that the robbery was well-planned, pointing out that the robbers were armed, had a getaway car, and may have carefully considered the date of the heist.
“I would think they did it specifically today because … a lot of government checks like disability and welfare all get produced on the first of the month," Moser said. “The bank is always very busy [on the first of the month] because all people that receive government checks cash them on the first of the month.”