Robber Steals Bingo Money for Oak Grove High School Marching Band

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Thursday, Dec 12, 2013  |  Updated 5:24 PM PDT
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A man in a ski mask who claimed to be armed busted through the doors of Oak Grove High School, robbing a bingo fundraiser of an unknown amount of cash. Kimberly Tere reports.

A man in a ski mask who claimed to be armed busted through the doors of Oak Grove High School, robbing a bingo fundraiser of an unknown amount of cash. Kimberly Tere reports.

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Man in Ski Mask Steals Bingo Night Winnings in San Jose

Man wearing a ski mask bursts into Oak Grove High School bingo fundraiser and steals winnings from cash box. Peggy Bunker reports.
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A man in a ski mask who claimed to be armed busted through the doors of Oak Grove High School, robbing a bingo fundraiser of an unknown amount of cash.

Now, the marching band boosters are poised to hold an emergency meeting Thursday night to figure out if it's worth it to hire a security guard.

"Something has to happen," said Oak Grove High Marching Band Program Director Teresa Moura, whose husband, Chris, is the band director. "In 25 years, nothing like this has every happened like this. Without our bingo money, there is no marching band."

Police are now looking for a suspect, described by witness John Esparza as about 6 feet tall, with a slender build and wearing a ski mask. He told people he had a gun and took the cash. The robbery took place on Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m.

"We heard 'Gun,' and we looked," Esparza said. "The bingo caller just stopped and said, 'What's going on?"

The 100-or-so people playing the game weren't hurt; some didn't even know that the robber was rifling through the cash box, stealing the funds that help pay for the marching band's uniforms and trips to Spain, France and Italy.

"People were in shock," Esparza said. "A lot of people were just frozen."

When they realized what happened, Esparza said that several people chased him, but he got away. Bingo players started dialing 911 and Esparza said the police were there in "five or ten minutes."

After the robbery, the game ended, as there was no money to pay out the players.

Each week, Oak Grove High School in San Jose holds a bingo night to raise money for the school's award-winning marching band. Moura said that in the past, the band has been able to raise between $80,000 to $100,000 a year, but this year, it's worse. "We'll be lucky to make $50,000," she said.

The Wednesday evening affair is typically fun and community-minded, with total cash-outs as high as $5,000. Players pay $20 to enter and $5 more for each additional pack. Each bingo winner usually takes home about $250.

Esparza said he's known about the dangers of playing bingo with so much money lying around and no protection.

"Apparently, this time of year, bingo halls are always getting hit," he said. "This time last year, we were at another bingo hall and the same thing happened. And so we’re just saying – maybe they need to start getting security guards."

The Oak Grove Band was recognized as the the Top Northern California Marching Band in the Western Band Association for seven of  the last 10 years in its division and is a six-time California Colorguard Circuit champion. After Christmas, the band plans to fly to Europe.

To find out more or donate to the band, visit ogbb.org.
 
NBC Bay Area's George Kiriyama and Caitlin Matalone contributed to this report.

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