Gunmen stage brazen bank heist, leaving Brazilian city locked down and covered in cash

Caroline Radnofsky and Yasmine Salam and Saphora Smith and Kurt Chirbas
·2 min read

Dozens of armed robbers invaded a city in southern Brazil overnight, taking control of the streets as they launched an assault against a bank, according to local reports Tuesday.

The audacious heist reportedly injured two people and left banknotes strewn across the ground in the city of Criciúma.

Close to 30 people wearing hoods participated in the assault, Brazil's Globo reported, citing police. The individuals blocked access points to the city to prevent police reinforcements from responding, according to The Associated Press.

Clésio Salvaro, the mayor of Criciúma, warned residents to stay at home in the early hours amid reports that criminals were running amok in the city.

Salvaro took to social media just before 2 a.m. local time (midnight ET) to warn people that the city in southeastern Brazil was being assaulted.

The violence began around midnight and lasted roughly two hours in the city of some 220,000 people, according to The AP.

Shooting and explosions were heard in the city overnight, Globo reported. A number of people were taken hostage but they were later released unharmed, Salvaro told the network.

NBC News could not immediately verify any of Globo’s reporting. Video from Criciúma appeared to show people picking up money strewn across the city's streets.

Images on Globo showed a bank vault with a square-shaped hole in it and a convoy of vehicles as they made their escape.

"So far, four people have been arrested who collected part of the paper bills that were thrown to the ground due to the explosion," the police said, adding that authorities have located 810,000 reais ($152,660 USD), according to Reuters.

Despite open fire being heard in video circulating social media, no one was killed, according to Globo, which cited a military lieutenant. A military policeman and one guard were shot, Globo added.

Brazil has a long history of bank heists and major lenders have struggled with a wave of violent robberies in recent years as criminals have mastered the use of explosives to access cash, according to Reuters.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.