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Robbery suspects held; money gets away

Police say four bank robbers in a getaway car threw a bag of stolen money off the Howard Frankland Bridge after robbing a St. Petersburg bank Friday.

State troopers followed the getaway car across the bridge and pulled it over as it reached Tampa. They arrested the four men inside.

Police divers were sent to search for the bag of money. They didn't find it.

Detectives say the robbers all live in the Villa Park neighborhood of Bradenton and call themselves the Villa Park Gang. They are suspects in several bank robberies in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, said Manatee sheriff's Detective Krystal Carpenter.

On Friday, the men robbed the Mercantile Bank at 3655 50th Ave. S in St. Petersburg shortly after 12:30 p.m., police said.

Two gunmen went into the bank. One vaulted over the counter and robbed tellers and customers, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Dan Bates.

The robbers drove away in a car that had been stolen minutes earlier, Bates said. They went two blocks south to a shopping center and got into a leased tan 2001 Buick.

"They hurriedly get out of one car and into another. They're not too shy about it," Bates said. "What they're not counting on is, a couple of citizens see this go down and they get suspicious enough to call the police."

A description of the Buick quickly went out. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper saw the car on Interstate 275, heading toward Tampa. The Buick slowed at one point and a passenger threw a bag into the bay, authorities said.

Markquez McKelly, 21; Tyrone Smith, 19; Jason Ivory McKinney, 19; and Courtney Harris, 19, were all charged with bank robbery.

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