Crime & Justice

DNA evidence leads to 2 arrests in 2004 bank robbery

TUSTIN — Tustin police believe they have arrested two of the five men responsible for a 2004 takeover bank robbery, authorities said today.

The so-called "Cherokee Bandits'' were responsible for numerous takeover bank robberies in Orange and Los Angeles counties, according to Tustin police.

The suspects were identified as Jerome Carter, 27, of Los Angeles, and Dionne Jones, 26, of Los Angeles, Tustin police reported.

Experts at the Orange County Crime Lab were able to determine the identity of the suspects from DNA left on masks retrieved from the abandoned getaway vehicle, police said.

Carter is serving a 17-year prison sentence for a home invasion robbery, police said. Tustin police, with help from Los Angeles police, searched Jones' home Tuesday in the Baldwin Village district, police said.

Jones was arrested without incident Tuesday and police recovered a semi-automatic handgun similar to the one used in a holdup of a Citibank branch at 18232 Irvine Blvd., according to Tustin police.

Jones was booked on a parole hold at the Anaheim jail, Tustin police said. Carter and Jones allegedly belong to a "notorious'' South Central street gang, authorities said.

Four masked gunmen robbed on April 2, 2004, the Citibank branch in what was characterized as an "aggressive, militaristic-style takeover'' hold up, Tustin police said.

The four men escaped in a getaway van driven by a fifth suspect.

The van was reported stolen in Tustin just before the stickup. Police found two ski masks in the van when they recovered the abandoned van in the parking lot of Columbus Tustin Middle School minutes after the bank robbery, police said.

The other three men are still being sought. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Tustin Detective Ryan Coe at (714) 573-3249.