PHILADELPHIA -- A convicted bank robber charged with killing two armored car guards had spotted the vehicle on the road and followed it to an ATM, where he opened fire, a homicide detective said Saturday.
Mustafa Ali, 36, of Philadelphia, executed the two retired Philadelphia police officers without saying a word, police have said.
"He follows the truck, he sees an opportunity and he takes it," said the detective, who worked on the case but requested anonymity because he is not a supervisor and is not authorized to comment publicly.
Ali owned the dark Acura used in the heist, although the FBI had not been able to glean the license plate number from the surveillance film, the detective said. Ali instead became a suspect because of tips called in from the public.
Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, whose department has struggled to solve murder cases amid a 'stop snitching' culture among criminals and witnesses, thanked the public for stepping up in this case.
"Within an hour, we started getting information from citizens," Johnson said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. "(Ali) will never walk the streets, hopefully, again in his lifetime."
Johnson declined to discuss details of the case or the suspect's background, and police did not release his arrest photo.
Ali, who is married and employed, previously served seven years in federal prison for armed bank robbery under the name Shawn Steele, according to federal court records and law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
A 1993 indictment charged three men, including the 21-year-old Steele, with stealing a combined $25,000 in eight Philadelphia bank robberies in 1992. His supervised release ended in 2004.
Ali was arrested on an unrelated warrant Friday and later charged with two counts of murder, robbery, a firearms charge and other crimes after giving a statement.
He was arraigned Saturday night on the counts involving the ATM killings and was held without bail. He was represented by a public defender, whose name was not immediately available. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 10.
Police recovered the gun, a 9mm semiautomatic, near a Philadelphia community college after Ali told them where he had tossed it, the detective said.
The victims, William Widmaier, 65, and Joseph Alullo, 54, were friends from their days together on the police force. They had both gone to work for Loomis, the armored-car company, after they retired - Widmaier in 1989 and Alullo in 2000.
The victims were not wearing bulletproof vests. Loomis does not require its guards to wear them, but the company said it would now review that policy.
The robber approached the armored car from behind Thursday morning outside a bank in northeast Philadelphia. Surveillance tapes from the Wachovia bank security camera and another business show the robber getting out of his car and putting on gloves before firing.
The gunman shot Widmaier once in the chest and Alullo three times in the chest and abdomen, police have said. He then fired at a third guard driving the vehicle, who was grazed by the shattered window.
The gunman left with a bag of deposits - likely a mix of cash and checks - but police do not think there was much money in it.
Tipsters who reported information about an Acura and driver matching the surveillance images led police to an apartment complex Friday afternoon, where authorities said they found Ali preparing to leave the area.
"We want to bring peace to the streets of the city," said Jody Weis, the FBI's supervisory agent in Philadelphia. "That cannot happen without the cooperation of the citizens."
Widmaier, married with adult children, was the union shop steward for the Pennsauken, N.J., based division of Loomis, where both men worked. Alullo was married with three daughters.