Brinks Robbery 2002
The Brinks Robbery of 2002 occurred at the Wells Fargo Business Center in Berkeley, California on November 21, 2002. This robbery was committed by three members of a street gang who police believed were responsible for a series of armored car hold-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area. After killing a Brinks guard and severely wounding another they only netted an empty moneybag.
Shortly after 1:00 pm an armored truck from the Brinks branch in Oakland, California stopped in front of the Wells Fargo Business Center off Ashby Avenue in Berkeley to service its automated teller machine. Backed into a parking space, next to the bank lobby where the ATM was located, was a stolen 2002 white Ford Explorer SUV. Exiting the truck was Brinks messenger John Buzzard followed by guard Dena Monique Daniels. Seconds after the Brinks employees entered the lobby two armed men dressed in black and wearing ski-masks ran from the SUV to the bank's door.
Daniels alerted Buzzard who pulled out his Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver. As the first robber in the doorway leveled an AK-47 assualt rifle at the Brinks messenger, Buzzard fired two shots striking the door frame. Before be could shoot again, a .223 round fired from the SUV shattered the lobby's side window, ricocheted off the far wall, and entered his right side before fragmenting. The impact knocked him on his back causing him to drop his gun.
Seeing her partner wounded Daniels surrendered and faced the ATM wall. The first robber fired a seven round burst with the AK-47 shooting Daniels twice in the back and through the lungs. A bullet also struck her left wrist and four others hit the wall. Upon hearing gunfire, the driver of the Brinks truck drove away. The second robber grabbed the canvass moneybag Buzzard had been carrying and fled with the other gunman to the Ford Explorer. Daniels died at the scene and Buzzard was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland. At the hospital, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle asked Buzzard how much money the robbers got away with, and was told none had been taken and ". . . it was all for nothing." This information was later confirmed by Brinks.
During the robbery, the Berkeley Police Department was engaged with an unrelated stand-off situation. Units from the California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and the University of California Police Department sealed off local freeway on-ramps and other potential escape routes. The Ford Explorer used in the robbery was found abandoned in a store parking lot one block from the crime scene. The empty Brinks bag was found in the rear section of the vehicle.
At 1:30 am the next morning, Sgt. Frank Dickey of the East Bay Regional Park Police spotted a stolen green 2003 Mitsubishi Montero at the Berkeley Marina. Inside the Montero were Roger Tabuuhki Johnson and a female companion. Both were taken into custody; however the female was later released. After Johnson was transported to the Santa Rita Jail, Officer Jennifer Rowland found a set of keys and an alarm device for a Ford Explore in the back of Dickey's patrol-car. Police quickly linked these items with the Ford Explore where the Brinks bag was recovered. On Monday morning, November 25, Johnson was charged with murder, attempted murder and robbery. Roger Johnson was facing the death penalty at the request of the district attorney in hopes that he would reveal his accomplices. Johnson did not give Berkeley detectives the names of the other suspects, because he claimed he was afraid of retaliation. He told the investigators he had been hired to drive the getaway vehicle, but didn't know it was for a robbery.
Linked to Another Heist
On August 30, 2002, a truck belonging to the Armored Courier Service stopped in front of a Wells Fargo bank in San Leandro, California. The truck's messenger Celso Sousa was halfway to the bank when a Mercury Mountaineer screeched to a halt behind the armored car. Two men wearing ski-masks and carrying assualt rifles exited the vehicle. They demanded Sousa's moneybag containing $200,000 and his sidearm. Sousa surrendered the items to the robbers. A month before, the same thing happened to the same crew at the same location, but Sousa had just stepped out and the truck's driver Aurora Menendez activated the side-door release switch allowing him to re-enter.
The suspects drove to a nearby location and ditched the Mountaineer for a Cadillac Escalade. A witness saw one of the suspects leave the Escalade and get into a white van. A BOL (Be On the Lookout) for the van was put out to local law enforcement. Other witnesses saw a Cadillac Escalade pull into the parking lot of a Hertz Car Rental minutes before a 2003 Mitsubishi Montero and a 2002 Ford Explore were stolen.
In the Oakland Hills police spotted the white van and made a traffic stop. Inside the van were Roger Tabuuhki Johnson and a female passenger. Johnson was arrested on a domestic abuse warrant and the female was held for probation violation. The San Leandro Police Department recovered the two vehicles used in the ACS hold-up, and found Sousa's gun in the Mountaineer. They also lifted a single finger print belonging to Johnson from the Escalade. Johnson was soon released, because as Lt. Steve Pricco of the SLPD explained they had nothing to link Johnson to the crime. No cash or masks were found in the vehicles and police felt a single finger print was not enough evidence to press charges. The witness who saw a man leave the Escalade and enter the van could not make a positive identification.
Two preliminary hearings regarding the Brinks robbery and murder of Dena Daniels were held in January and March of 2004 at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. At both hearings the judges felt there was insufficient evidence against Johnson to stand trial. No other arrests were made and the case is still pending.
1. DeFao, Janine (2002-11-23)"Single mom dead 'all for nothing' would be Brinks robbers killed guard," San Francisco Chronicle, Page A-1.
2. Tabak, Nate (2002-11-27) "Police Arrest Suspect in Armed Guard Killing," The Daily Californian.
3. Lee, Henry K. (2002-12-03)"Suspect in Brinks slaying, Oakland man could face death penalty," San Francisco Chronicle, Page A-17.
4. Lee, Henry K. (2002-12-05) "Why Brinks Suspect got out, Too little evidence in August heist," San Francisco Chronicle, Page A-25.
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