Pittsburgh Tribune Review | By Bob Stiles
Gunfire erupted when two men pulled the front off an ATM at a Somerset bank early Friday, authorities said.
A resident heard the commotion at the 1st Summit Bank on North Center Avenue about 3 a.m., then returned shots at the suspects fleeing in a van, police said. A bullet hit a van tire during the exchange, authorities said.
The suspects traveled a few blocks in the crippled vehicle before turning from North Center onto Missoura Street. They then got into a car they had stolen from a vehicle rental business in Somerset Township, said borough police Chief Randy Cox.
The suspects, described as white males of medium build, fled toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Authorities were searching for the pair yesterday.
One suspect used a drill to remove the front of the ATM, police said. The suspects then used a strap or chain to pull off the outside cabinet.
The robbers removed two canisters: one containing $10 bills and the other, $20 bills. During the theft, they left one canister behind. Police returned its contents to the bank.
Cox declined to say how much money the suspects stole.
In additional to the resident who fired shots, another neighbor came out of his home upon hearing noises from the bank, police said. These two witnesses helped police piece together the early stages of the incident.
Other witnesses who heard the commotion helped police plot the suspects' flight path.
"We feel very fortunate that we have ... as many witnesses as we do," Cox said.
He declined to identify any of them.
Police are using surveillance footage from businesses to help in the investigation. There were no signs of blood in the van to indicate that the suspects had been wounded.
The resident who fired at the van won't face any charges, the chief said.
"At this point, we believe the weapon was legally obtained, licensed, and he was acting in immediate defense of his life," Cox said.
ATM thefts have been reported in a similar manner in central Pennsylvania and central Maryland, according to reports.
Earlier this month, someone took about $5,000 from a First National Bank of Mercersburg in Chambersburg, Franklin County, after breaking into an ATM, according to newspaper accounts.
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