The bank employees knew something was wrong on May 3, 2008, even before the thieves struck, they testified yesterday during the trial of two men accused of robbing a Port Richmond bank and helping to murder a police officer during their getaway.
"I knew five to 10 minutes before we got robbed that we were going to get robbed," Bank of America employee Brandon Smith said, noting the suspicious-looking man in the produce section of the ShopRite, where the bank is situated.
Besides the dark shades over his eyes, the mask covering his mouth and long dreadlocks obscuring part of his face, the man stood out because he was staring at the bank instead of shopping, Smith said.
That man - the hair was actually a wig - turned out to be Levon Terrell Warner, 41. He and Eric Deshann Floyd, 35, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39.
Floyd and the defendants' accomplice, Howard Cain, 34, disguised themselves in Muslim women's clothing during the robbery: Floyd in brown, Cain in black.
Cain used a military assault rifle to gun down Liczbinski blocks from the bank after the three men, traveling in a stolen Jeep, were unable to shake the officer, Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the jury on Tuesday.
After the three split up, police fatally shot Cain 18 times after he tried to shoot another officer, Conroy said. Floyd and Warner confessed to the robbery after being arrested.
Yvette Perez was the first bank employee to spot Warner, about 11 a.m. that Saturday morning. "It immediately caught my attention. He looked like a robber," said Perez, who reported her fears to supervisor Ashley Viozzi.
Viozzi left the customer-service area to investigate, but was tackled by Cain as she tried to enter a secure door leading to the teller area. After Cain lunged, she said, he got her in a bear hug and knocked her to the ground.
Viozzi said she fought him off and ran to the ShopRite customer-service counter for help.
Under cross-examination from defense attorneys, Viozzi said she saw no weapons or the defendant with dreadlocks, and did not see Cain interact with the other person in female Muslim attire, Floyd.
Cain muscled his way into the secure teller area and ordered Smith to load a bag with money after Viozzi ran for help.
Smith said the robber pointed a gun at his head and demanded money from the top and bottom drawer. "Which totally surprised me," Smith said, noting that only people who work at the bank would know about the bottom drawer. (Conroy contends that Cain cased the bank for months.)
While the robbery was going on, Smith said, the man in dreadlocks paced in front of the two teller windows before finally saying, "We've got to go."
Smith said he noticed the person in brown Muslim clothing did not run with other customers when Viozzi was attacked.
That person kept an eye on the bank, remained calm and kept a hand inside a long, cardboard box sticking out of a shopping cart, he said.
The box contained the assault rifle used to kill Liczbinski, Conroy said.