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Highway Reopened After San Jose Bank Robbery, Bomb Scare

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San Jose police and bomb detectives on Highway 85 following the chase of bank robbery suspects. (CBS)

San Jose police and bomb detectives on Highway 85 following the chase of bank robbery suspects. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -State Highway 85 in San Jose opened in both directions around 4:15 p.m. Thursday after a crash involving fleeing bank robbery suspects closed the roadway for hours.

There was concern that the crashed car contained explosives, but the car was cleared and appears to be harmless, said California Highway Patrol Officer D.J. Sarabia.

The crash happened around 11:40 a.m. on northbound Highway 85 just south of the connector to northbound state Highway 87.

Sarabia said the crash involved a blue Honda and a minivan. The Honda is the car that police investigated.

The car’s two occupants were wanted for a robbery at the Bank of America at 5615 Snell Ave. in San Jose, police said. Police received calls about the robbery at 11:36 a.m.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports:

San Jose police Officer Jose Garcia said one suspect walked into the bank with “some type of device,” and threatened the teller, who handed over to him an undisclosed amount of cash.

The suspect then left the bank and jumped into a waiting blue Honda. Shortly thereafter, a motorist approached an officer in the area and reported that a blue Honda had crashed about a mile away on the freeway.

Steve Brown, president of Echelon Security in San Jose, was on his way to work when he witnessed the crash.

Brown said he saw the Honda driving erratically at high speed and witnessed the crash.

“My immediate response was to stop and help the person in the minivan,” Brown said.

Once he saw that several people were already assisting the driver of the minivan, he said his secondary thought was to chase the suspect who he saw running away from the scene.

Brown said he drove slowly alongside the suspect and let the man tire himself out before he hopped out of his vehicle and chased him on foot.

The suspect approached a vehicle and looked as though he was going to carjack it, according to Brown.

That’s when the security expert intervened.

“He and I wrestled. I threw him to the ground,” Brown said.

Brown said he put the suspect into an arm-lock and applied some pressure, which is when the suspect stopped fighting and answered Brown’s questions about where the second suspect had fled.

A motorcycle officer caught up with them and gave Brown handcuffs to restrain the suspect and Brown pointed the officer in the direction of the second suspect, according to Brown.

The second suspect had taken off running and hopped over a fence at Gunderson High School, located at 622 Gaundabert Lane.

Gunderson, which is adjacent to Highway 85, was placed on lockdown for about an hour starting around 11:30 a.m.

“Police called and said two suspects were loose and had gone on our property,” said Karen Fuqua, a spokeswoman for the San Jose Unified School District.

The suspect was arrested by motorcycle officers on the baseball field, where he had hopped over a fence.

The lockdown was lifted around 12:30 p.m., Fuqua said.

Neither suspect was armed, Garcia said.

Both suspects—a 35-year-old San Jose man and a 23-year-old from Gilroy—were arrested on suspicion of armed robbery, police said.

One of the suspects was taken to a hospital for minor injuries that occurred during the car crash.

“I was very pleased to hear that the lady in the minivan wasn’t hurt,” Brown said, saying that her safety was his first concern.

As for his actions Thursday afternoon, Brown said, “It was instinctual. I’m not a hero or anything.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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