California Chicken Grill manager Shawn Rankin was surprised to see Columbia Police buzzing around his Vista restaurant Friday until he learned a nearby bank was robbed.
“They were everywhere,” said Rankin, who made a deposit at the RBC Bank shortly before the robbery occurred about 11 a.m.
Rankin said he called bank employees to express sympathy. “They seemed kind of shaken but OK,” he said.
It was the second robbery of a business on a well-traveled downtown road in two days.
A service station at Gervais and Harden streets — a mile east of the bank, near the heart of Five Points — was robbed Thursday. No arrests have been made.
So far, police don’t see any connection between the crimes.
Robbery is an everyday risk for any business, Rankin said.
“Once your doors are open, they’re open,” he said.
Police said a man wearing a surgical cap and duct tape on his face gave a teller at the bank in the 700 block of Gervais Street a note saying he had a weapon and wanted money.
The weapon wasn’t displayed as the suspect fled on a bicycle with an undisclosed amount, police said.
Using a bicycle as a getaway vehicle “is a little unusual,” police Capt. Thomas Dodson said.
Nearby merchants didn’t suspect anything until police arrived in force.
“There was a big commotion,” said Cliff Sizemore, who workers at the UPS store adjoining the bank.
The bank staff is known for customer service, longtime customer Larry Kline said.
“It’s like they’re your friends.”
Some nearby retailers who saw police cruising the area seeking the suspect were shaken by the crime.
“I wish somebody had come by and told us about it,” said Deborah Joyce, a manicurist at Columbia’s The Salon. “It’s kind of scary.”