When Janice Ostrander, a drive-in teller with Virginia National Bank, reported for work at 7:15 a.m. yesterday, she knew something was wrong.
As she recalled later, she walked to the rear of the bank building at 600 N. Washington St. in Alexandria, and spied a broken window pane "large enough for a skinny person to fit through."
She went to the bank's drive-in window and was met by a waiting customer, Paul Day, who used his CB radio to summon police.
While Day relayed the message, Ostrander peered through the bank windows and spotted a man inside the manager's office. She said she panicked, ran around Day's car and jumped in beside him. The two were about to speed off to the police station, she said, when they saw two figures climbing out of the broken window. "Day made a U-turn and we saw the two men run through an alley," said Ostrander.
When the teller and the customer doubled back, they came up directly behind a waiting Buick that the suspects were approaching.
"We got to the getaway car before the robbers did," said Ostrander. "It sounds funny now, but I was shaking like a leaf."
The Buick sped north on Washington Street toward the impatient customer, the nervous teller and the squawking CB in hot pursuit.
Pulling up to an intersection, Day blew his horn and summoned an Alexandria policeman who was issuing a traffic ticket to a motorist. Office John Horvath stepped on the pedal of his squad car, leaving a half-written ticket behind. "Don't leave," Ostranger said the policeman told the bewildered motorist, "I'll be right back."
The suspect's car took off down George Washington Parkway, now pursued by Horvath, more than 50 Alexandria police officers, the K-9 squad and U.S. Park Police helicopters.
The suspects got away.
"We chased them south to Slaters Lane and the parkway when the three subjects abandoned the vehicle and ran into a wooded area," said Sgt. Archie Hall of Alexandria's criminal investigation division. The Buick, which police said was rented, left on the side of the parkway, snarling rush-hour traffic and leaving motorists eager to learn what the action was all about.
"It was exciting," said Ostrander, who later returned to the bank, which was surrounded by police. "But I wouldn't want to do it again."
Police said the burglary was unsuccessful. Nothing was taken from the bank. Last night Hall said police were still sifting through reports filed by each officer on the scene.
"There were a lot of policemen involved," said Capt. Carl Dutzman of the Alexandria police. "I'd say from 50 to 60."
Hall said that under the circumstances, "everything went well. Except for the fact that we didn't apprehend anyone."