A lone man wielding a gun and wearing what one witness called a lifelike Halloween mask robbed Rabobank in Cambria at 12:26 p.m. Thursday and, according to one witness, walked out with “a bagful of money.”
The man, described as a white male in his 30s or 40s about 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, drove off in a dark gray or silver Hyundai two-door coupe. Sheriff’s deputies, State Parks rangers and CHP officers responded within minutes, searching by air and on the ground along Highway 1 north and south of Cambria and along Highway 46 east of Cambria. The robber remained at large as of Thursday evening.
Witnesses said the robber wore a black or dark blue hoodie or sweatshirt with no lettering, faded blue jeans and black tennis shoes.
The initial report said there was “a man inside waving a gun around,” said sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla. Another report said the weapon was a black semiautomatic handgun.
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Patty Fox of Cambria said that as she was going into the bank, she unwittingly held the door open for the robber as he left. She said he was covered by baggy clothes and the mask, which covered his head and only exposed his eyes.
“He looked right at me,” she said, but the man didn’t say anything before driving off in what she called a silver-colored car.
Fox was asked to remain at the bank until authorities arrived but left to tend to her dogs. She seemed calm but acknowledged feeling spooked by the incident. Fox said the employees were in shock and some were in tears.
A witness who asked not to be identified said he saw the robber clearly and described the man as wearing clear, latex-style gloves and a mask that covered his head. The mask looked to the witness more lifelike than scary or cartoonish.
Cipolla described the mask as “clear.”
Customers arriving after the robbery found the doors locked with a sign that read, “We are temporarily closed due to an emergency. We apologize for the inconvenience and will reopen as soon as possible.”
Within minutes, about a dozen law officers converged on the bank and its parking lot, securing the scene, scoping out the situation, interviewing witnesses inside and outside the bank, stringing yellow crime-scene tape across the entrances, telling customers the bank was closed and discussing plans for apprehending the robber.
Both Cambria Grammar and Santa Lucia Middle schools were locked down within minutes of the robbery, because “we didn’t know which way (the robber) was headed,” said middle school Principal Kyle Martin.
Students were secured in classrooms, doors locked and windows closed. The front gate at the middle school was locked, Martin said, to keep vehicles from entering the campus. The lockdown was lifted after about 25 minutes, he said.
Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 549-STOP or the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office at 781-4550.