High-Tension Armed Robbery at Phoenix Credit Union Ends With All Suspects Captured

The pair of robbers entered the credit union suddenly, yelling at employees, waving a gun.

Police say the robbery of the Sun West Federal Credit Union yesterday was more like Point Break than the average pass-a-note-and-run kind of bank stick-up.

But it was also like America's Dumbest Criminals: The gang took a borrowed minivan to the credit union, and witnesses got a partial license plate that led cops to a home at 2300 West Windrose Avenue. Five suspects were apprehended peacefully -- mostly teenagers. (Scroll down for the police news release).

"We don't have anything called 'normal routine' around here, but generally, (robbers) go in and you rarely see a weapon," says Phoenix police Officer James Holmes. "This was a whole different situation. It's absolutely scary, and even more scary when we actually find them all in one of our neighborhoods."   

Text of news release follows:

Date: 04-07-09 approximately 1345 hours

Location: 2800 W. Cactus Rd.

Victim: Sun West Federal Credit Union

Victim: White, female, 38 years of age

Suspect: Tongate, David, Black, male, 17 years of age

(Booking #P530498)

Suspect: Vale, Kelvin, White, male, 18 years of age

(Booking #P530496)

Suspect: Piukala, Nofomuli, Asian, male, 23 years of age

(Booking #P530504)

Suspect: Bethea, Julian, Black, Male, 16 years of age


Suspect: Montawe, Oscar, Hispanic, male, 17 years of age


Just before 2:00 p.m., on Tuesday, 7 April Phoenix Police officers were called to the credit union in the area of 2800 W. Cactus Rd. in response to an armed robbery. Upon arrival officers determined that suspects Bethea and Tongate entered the credit union at which time Tongate produced a hand gun and waived it toward employees while Bethea approached a teller and handed her a note demanding money. The suspects were given an amount of currency and then fled the building. The suspects entered an awaiting mini van, driven by suspect Vale and with suspect Piukala as a passenger, and fled the area.

Witnesses near the bank were able to get a partial license plate of the vehicle which lead officers to a home in the area of 2300 W. Windrose Av. Offers immediately detained Vale as he was leaving the home, then established a perimeter around the area. The police Special Assignments Unit responded and were able to convince the remaining suspects to exit the home peaceably. Police served and search warrant on the home and currency, a handgun and other evidence were recovered.

The suspects were booked into jail or detained in juvenile detention for armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. There were no injuries resulting from this incident.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.