MANATEE — Investigators were still searching for two masked men who robbed an East Manatee bank, fled in a stolen truck and then set it on fire a couple of blocks away, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
At about 9:30 a.m., two masked and armed men went into the Wachovia Bank at 2901 53rd Ave. E., and demanded money from the tellers.
They left with an undisclosed amount of cash and no one was injured, according to the sheriff’s office.
Shortly afterward, the vehicle they fled in — a white Chevy Avalanche with grey trim — was set ablaze. The pickup had been stolen from a 15th Street East car lot.
After the robbery, a woman standing outside the bank was waiting to see her mother who worked inside. She said they spoke by phone shortly after the holdup.
“She’s fine. She’s just really shaken,” she said.
The fire was discovered at a residence surrounded by a wooded area in the 3000 block of 51st Avenue East. Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue firefighters responded to the scene.
Authorities don’t believe the property owners had anything to do with the heist and have been cooperative. Chances are the assailants chose the location because it is secluded from the roadway, according to officials.
After setting the truck on fire, the bandits took the wheel of a silver Mercedes SUV with custom rims and were last seen heading north. Deputies did not make any traffic stop on any vehicles matching that description.
Detectives were investigating whether the two men who robbed the bank are part of a group out of Glades County that is suspected of committing other robberies locally.
Anyone with any information can contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective Dan Dickerman at (941) 747-3011, ext. 2553. Or to remain anonymous and possibly become eligible for a cash reward, call Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).