APOPKA, Fla. – Authorities on Thursday arrested four "very violent" men who were attempting to rob a bank in Apopka and are connected to several other bank robberies in the area, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
The arrests around 11 a.m. Thursday at Iberiabank on West Orange Blossom Trail came as a result of an extended investigation that involved the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Apopka Police Department.
The FBI plans to charge Walter Lee Jones, 39; Coryell Robinson, 30; Tariq Cherry, 20; and Larmarcus Harvey, 40; with federal crimes, Demings said.
The exact details of their arrest and the other crimes they could be connected to were not immediately available because the investigation is still ongoing.
Demings said the men were using stolen vehicles and firearms in the bank robberies they committed in the Central Florida area. He said the men are connected to at least three armed bank robberies in the area, but there could be more crimes.
News 6 video from the scene showed a gun lying in a parking space outside the bank and a white sedan with extensive damage to its rear end.
"You can see here by the fact that there is a gun on the ground here today, they were prepared, if need be, there's no question that they might use deadly force on someone, an innocent person, and that is what we wanted to prevent here today and we were successful in doing that," Demings said.
Demings said the suspects were in the white sedan and attempted to flee, but law enforcement officers were able to quickly stop them and apprehend them using a tactical maneuver.
Witnesses said one of the suspects tried running away through a Christmas tree lot that was nextdoor to the bank.
"He started weaving through these Christmas trees. He took out the card table," witness Steven Donaldson said. "It was terrifying really because you never know what could have happened."
Donaldson said he saw one of the suspects lose a wig and mask he was wearing during the armed robbery while he was trying to escape.
"It was a scary, scary situation," Donaldson said.
No one was injured during the incident and the men were arrested before they got inside the bank, which was open with employees and customers inside, according to officials.
"This group was a very, very violent group. That's why you see all of us out here today to stop them. Central Florida just got safer today with arresting this group to stop them from these robberies," FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said.
Authorities are now trying to see if the group is connected to other bank robberies across the area.
"We're looking for additional information. They probably did some that we're not even aware of, but we'll work with other law enforcement in the region in that regard," Demings said.