Date: January 8, 2002 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact:

Aaron Flint, (863) 534-6377 or 502-8262 pager

SunTrust Employee Shot During Bank Robbery

At 12:50 p.m. today (January 8, 2002), the Polk County Sheriff's Office responded to a robbery of the SunTrust Bank located at 2800 Recker Highway in Winter Haven. 

At approximately 12:30 p.m., 2 black males walked into the SunTrust Bank located at the intersection of Recker Highway and Coleman Road. One of the suspects was armed with a handgun and the other was armed with mace. The suspect armed with the gun approached the teller line that is protected by bullet proof glass, while his accomplice stood nearby. He fired one shot that ricocheted off the protective glass in an upward direction. No one was injured from this shot. The suspect then ordered the teller to give him money. The teller complied with the suspect's demands. 

Shortly after taking the money from the teller, the suspect approached the SunTrust Branch Manager, Martha Villarreal, 36, of Auburndale, in her office. He ordered customers in her office and other bank employees to place their wallets and purses on the top of a desk. For some unknown reason, the suspect then shot Villarreal in the face. She was flown to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where she was undergoing surgery for a single gun shot wound to the cheek. 

After shooting the manager and taking the items from the desk, the suspects fled. They were seen getting into a white Oldsmobile car that was waiting with a third suspect inside of it. The Oldsmobile, which was stolen from Southeast Plaza in Winter Haven prior to the robbery, was recovered 2 blocks from the SunTrust Bank on Deena Way. An unknown amount of cash that was covered with red dye was found inside of the vehicle. It is presumed that the suspects will have red dye on their bodies and clothes as a result of the dye pack that exploded inside the car. It is unknown whether the suspects fled on foot or got into another vehicle. 

The suspect that shot Villarreal is described as approximately 5'11" tall, 210 pounds, in his mid 20's, had a moustache, was wearing dark colored jeans and a dark colored jacket, and had a Haitian accent. The suspect armed with mace is described as approximately 5'6" tall, 190 pounds, and wearing a dark green and blue flannel shirt or jacket. An estimated age for him is not available at this time. Witnesses state that the third suspect who was waiting in the stolen car was black. However, they can not confirm whether it was a male or female. 

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of any of these suspects should contact PCSO Detective Scott Rench at 863-287-8437. Anyone wanting to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1000 should contact Polk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS.


Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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