By Bob Skolnik
Four people are in custody and two are under armed guard at area hospitals after allegedly robbing a Riverside ATM, shooting at police officers, and crashing their car in downtown Riverside Monday night. The car crash and police chase created a chaotic scene in downtown Riverside.
Sometime around 9:30 p.m. Monday, a man doing maintenance on a Bank of America ATM machine at 3300 Harlem Ave. at Burlington Street was robbed at gunpoint by five males and one female who pulled up in a 2008 Nissan Altima. According to Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel, three of them pulled guns on the maintenance man, and said, "Is the money worth you dying for?" Then they pushed him to the ground and fled with the money southbound on Harlem.
A Riverside police officer who happened to be a block away on an unrelated traffic stop saw the car zoom by and gave chase. The car turned west on Burlington. The officer chased the car, with six people inside, which pulled over at Burlington and Delaplaine Road. By that time another Riverside squad car arrived. The two police officers got out of their cars with guns drawn, walked toward the car and exchanged a few words with the occupants. Then the car suddenly sped off, heading east on Burlington toward downtown Riverside.
They were tossing money out of the car as they sped off and money was strewn along Burlington for blocks. Police believe between $6,000 and $8,000 was taken. They have recovered about $7,000 but are still counting.
The police officers ran back to their cars and gave chase. As they sped away the alleged robbers appear to have shot at the police cars.
"They heard shots," Weitzel said. "We believe they shot at the police officer in the car. People reported shots being fired. We found spent cases farther down toward the traffic stop, but we haven't had a chance to review the officer's video from the squad car yet so that should tell us."
Riverside police fired no shots during the incident, Weitzel said.
As the alleged robbers' car raced into downtown Riverside, the driver lost control and hit a tree, totally uprooting it, in front of Ivins Funeral Home at 80 E. Burlington, rolling over and grazing a car heading east on Burlington. The overturned car caught fire after crashing, but the fire was put out by officers using fire extinguishers from their squad car.
Three Riverside police officers apprehended the suspects, some of whom were crawling away from the crashed car. Police from Brookfield, Berwyn, North Riverside, Stickney and McCook all responded to the scene.
Four of the injured alleged robbers were taken to Loyola Medical Center and the other two were taken to MacNeal Hospital, where they were being treated under police guard.
Four of the six have since been released to the custody of Riverside police. One male is still hospitalized with a broken leg and the female is hospitalized with internal bleeding.
Two people in the car that was grazed during the overturn suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene and released.
Three guns were recovered from the car, including two fully loaded handguns, a .40-caliber and 9 mm, and a third gun was found underneath the car.
The vehicle may have been stolen.
"We don't know if it was stolen yet because it is so badly damaged," Weitzel said. "It has a temporary license plate."
No charges have yet been filed and the suspects have been uncooperative, Weitzel said.
"In my 35 years of law enforcement," he added, "it is absolutely amazing to me that no one was killed."