Bank Robbery Ends In Gun Battle

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An armed bank robbery in Bakersfield, Calif., Thursday led to a gun battle with police that left two people hospitalized.

One of the suspects is listed in critical condition following surgery, and a police officer underwent surgery Thursday night for a gunshot wound to the hand, reports CBS affiliate KBAK.

Police took three men and a woman into custody for their alleged involvement in the attempted bank heist. Police say they recovered a large semi-automatic handgun and a duffle bag containing an undetermined amount of cash.

The incident began when three men waving handguns entered a Washington Mutual Savings Bank branch shortly before 12:30 p.m. A bank employee was talking to his brother on the phone at the time, and police say it was the brother who alerted them.

Officers arriving on the scene observed the suspects leaving the bank in a stolen green Chevrolet. Police say they chased the car for several blocks until the suspects lost control of their car and slammed into a parking sign at a Motel 6 parking lot. A foot pursuit ensued and the suspects began firing at police.

Eric Alexander, 35, was shot once in the torso. Police say Alexander is on parole for a previous bank robbery and is a gang member. The wounded policeman is detective Rob Heiduk, a 10-year veteran.

Lorraine Smith was eating at a nearby restaurant when the gun battle began.

"I just heard a shot, and somebody yelling, 'Get down on the floor, get down on the floor!'" Smith recalled. "I'm blind, I can't see. I got frightened."

Another restaurant patron, Don Smith, said "We all hit the floor," when they heard the shots.

"My heart started beating pretty fast, because you see this all the time on television, when you turn on the news," said Chris Hembree, another witness. "And being so close to the action, gets you kinda thinking what's really out there."

There's an unconfirmed report that off-duty deputy police officers also were in the restaurant eating their lunch when the melee began.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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