Police said they were looking for two men wearing hooded sweatshirts who approached a Dunbar security guard at 9:30 a.m. outside North Fork Bank at 115-20 Jamaica Ave. and demanded cash from him, said Officer Chris Cottingham, a police spokesman.
After the guard refused, one of the two men shot him in the chest and fled down 89th Avenue with nine bags of cash, according to a police officer at the scene who said he spoke to several witnesses.
Cottingham said the guard, Elliot Klein, 64, was still in serious condition at Jamaica Hospital Wednesday morning after being upgraded from critical condition two days earlier.
The police officer at the scene said Klein was walking with the two tellers from the bank to refill an automated teller machine down the block when the two suspects approached him. Hours after the incident, drops of blood still stained the sidewalk as FBI agents were scouring the scene.
One eyewitness, who was just seconds from entering the second door of the bank lobby, said he heard a gunshot and then saw one of the tellers run frantically into the building yelling for someone to call an ambulance and the police.
"I was at the door and I was just about to walk inside when I heard a loud bang from outside," said Louis Silvagnoli. "The guard was being helped inside, but I didn't really see much. It was pretty crazy. She was shouting for someone to call 911."
Silvagnoli, who has lived in Richmond Hill for the past 20 years, said he was shocked at the ruthlessness of the crime and worried about its impact on the residents.
"This is bad news for the neighborhood," he said. "For something like this to happen here, it really gives you a bad feeling."
Some local merchants felt equally shaken and said a violent crime in their neighborhood would scare off customers during the Christmas shopping season.
"It makes you think a bit more if they're going to go across the street to rob a bank," said Tony Parsan, who owns a furniture store called House of Elegance at 115-19 Jamaica Ave. "They could see this stuff in here. It's not a joking matter. It makes you scared. You've got to keep your eyes open."
One local vendor who has worked at his store across the street for five years and asked not to be identified said the bank has been robbed three or four times since he started.
"It's happened before since I've been here," he said. "That bank is robbed all the time. It's kind of scary. They're killing our business. Now the customers are frightened and they stay away."
Ellen Pellegrino, a school crossing guard who works at PS 56 one block from where the security guard was shot, said she was equally surprised.
"Well, it certainly stopped me from going to the bank," she said. Pellegrino, who has worked in the neighborhood for the past 23 years said the shooting so close to her school had shaken her faith.
"I'm surprised," she said. "You really don't expect something like that here."
©2000 Community News Group
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