Rookie Oakland cop, guard help nab bank robbery suspect

A rookie Oakland police officer and an alert security guard teamed up Tuesday to help arrest a downtown bank robber.

Officer Giovanna Borgna is in her 10th week of field training. She's learning the basics of street patrol under the watchful eyes of field training officer Jon Low.

"I would not have been able to make this arrest without his guidance," Borgna said of Low. 

Borgna and Low were on patrol in downtown Oakland when they were notified that City National Bank at 2101 Webster St. had been robbed just after 10 a.m. Tuesday.

"Anybody in the area, please, 21 and Webster?" a dispatcher said over the radio. "He simulated a weapon but none was seen. Security started chasing him. Code 3, please."

The security guard in hot pursuit was Mahlon Phillips. City National Bank is in the building where Phillips works security. He happened to be in the bank on his normal rounds when it was robbed.

Phillips chased the suspect out onto Webster. On the sidewalk, a bank security device exploded in the suspect's pants, splattering him in red dye.
The guard chased the robber for several blocks and then flagged down Borgna and Low in their patrol car.

"Literally, he was pointing a finger like, 'This is the person right in front,' and he was waving his arms," Borgna said of the guard.

The officers arrested the suspect near 19th and Franklin streets after he briefly refused to stop walking away from them, authorities said.

"He was proactive. He chased this guy, you know, how many blocks down the street?" Borgna said. "He wanted to detain this guy. He didn't have to."

Phillips was not authorized to speak on camera. He's been on the job for nine years. He spent much of the day accepting handshakes and congratulations.

Friends say he's also caught two purse snatchers.

"He's our hero here," said Michael Issa, owner of the Jitters and Shakes coffee shop in the building. "He takes care of business, and he protects us. A lot of things happen here, and he's always there for us."

As for Officer Borgna, she wants to be there for the community as well.

She was one of 24 officers who graduated from the 175th Oakland Police Academy in January. She used to work in HOA management and was also a newspaper photographer.

"This is what I signed up for. This is what I wanted to do to make a difference," Borgna said. "I'm happy I was able to do this and assist with the arrest here."

Only four minutes elapsed between the bank robbery and the arrest. The stolen money was recovered.