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ATM ambush kills two former officers

Gunman who killed 2 armored car guards was caught on video

Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson (left), flanked by chief of detectives Keith Sadler, leaves the Wachovia Bank where a fatal armored car holdup took place this morning.
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson (left), flanked by chief of detectives Keith Sadler, leaves the Wachovia Bank where a fatal armored car holdup took place this morning.Read moreED HILLE / Inquirer staff photographer

The man sits in a newer, black Acura TL near a Roosevelt Mall bank branch and calmly puts on a pair of black gloves. As a surveillance tape rolls, he emerges from the car, now with gun in hand, and strides toward two Loomis guards, former Philadelphia police officers who are servicing an outdoor ATM machine.

Without a word, he fires, killing the guards and wounding a third inside their armored truck.

"He just came out and essentially assassinated them," Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said.

Thursday night, police scoured the city for the killer, whose attack in the Northeast at 8 a.m. Thursday  was personal for many on the force. Some officers who responded to the scene recognized the victims as friends and colleagues.

Killed were Joseph Alullo, 54, of Levittown, who retired as a sergeant in 2000 after 27 years on the force, and William Widmaier, 65, of Fairless Hills, who retired in 1989 after 23 years.

The two Bucks County residents once worked together in the Seventh District in the Northeast and were longtime friends, Johnson said.

The armored truck's 70-year-old driver, who was grazed by glass shattered by bullets fired at him by the gunmen, was not identified because he is a witness. He was treated at a hospital and released.

Within minutes of the shootings, police ordered a lockdown at four nearby schools: Resurrection of Our Lord School, Northeast High School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and Rhawnhurst School. They reopened shortly before noon.

The guards were picking up receipts at a drive-through deposit ATM at a Wachovia Bank when the robber — wearing blue jeans, a black shirt, white sneakers, and a yellow cap with a black logo — opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, police said.

Widmaier, who was servicing the machine, was hit in the chest. Alullo was wounded three times in the chest and abdomen while reaching for his revolver, officials said. The gunmen then fired at the truck's windows.

After both guards fell mortally wounded, the gunman grabbed a canvas money bag and ran away. The bag was found empty behind the nearby Turf Club, where the robber had left his car. Authorities did not disclose the amount of money thought to be in the bag.

"We're looking for an armed and dangerous male who had no regard for life at all," Johnson said.

The guards were following procedure when the two left the truck to service the machine while the third remained inside, said Mark Clark, vice president of communications at Loomis' corporate office in Houston.

"We have not had an employee shot and killed for many, many years," Clark said.

The bank is at the rear of the mall, in the city's Rhawnhurst section, and many of the stores inside make their night deposits at the branch.

Kathy Paul, 44, who lives nearby, initially thought the shots were firecrackers, she said. She soon realized differently as sirens filled the air.

"In this neighborhood, anything can happen," she said.

The FBI is looking at other bank robberies and crimes in the area for similarities, but there was nothing to immediately link this crime to others, Special Agent Jerri Williams said.

Philadelphia police saw the deadly robbery not only as a crime to be solved but a blow to the department.

"Once you're a part of this department, you'll always be a part of this department," Johnson said, echoing the sentiments of officers on the scene and on Internet forums.

"Anything the families need, we will provide for them," he said.

In a city where the steady drumbeat of homicides has almost overwhelmed investigators, veteran officers said the crime scene was one of the more horrific seen recently — and one that was particularly emotional for arriving officers.
Some, they said, learned when they got there that the victims were their good friends.

"This is one that I'll remember for a long time," one commander said.

Lou T. Tartack, president of Local 506 of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, which represents Loomis guards, said Widmaier, a shop steward, had recently reported that the company proposed putting two-man crews on less risky routes.

That, he said, could include the route in the Northeast.

"This was supposed to be one of the safest routes," Tartack said, "but you never know when something like this is going to happen."

He added: "This was an issue we were going to deal with. Under the circumstances, I'm not sure we will be eager to agree to it."

Other union members at Loomis were in shock, Tartack said.

"They're fearful, apprehensive," he said. "They got through the day the best they could."

Authorities asked that anyone with information call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.