Four gunmen attempted to steal a promotional booth filled with cash from early today, firing off several shots in the process, but no one was hurt and the loot was recovered after being abandoned by the robbers, authorities said.
The black-clad gunmen carried handguns and rifles as they robbed the East County gaming facility about 2:20 a.m., said San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Hank Turner. Patrons playing on slot machines inside at the time later told reporters they heard gunfire and scrambled to cash out before searching for loved ones gambling in other areas of the casino.
The gunmen entered the casino and approached a promotional booth filled with cash, then proceeded to attach a steel chain around the booth, according to sheriff's Sgt. Tom Poulin. The other end of the chain was attached to a black SUV parked outside the casino, he said.
While the gunmen were still inside the casino, a gun was fired and at least one round struck the promotional booth, Poulin said.
The gunmen then fled in the SUV with a small amount of cash, Turner said. They apparently did not succeed in stealing the promotional booth.
The getaway vehicle was found abandoned about a mile away on Wildcat Canyon Road a short time later, Turner said, adding that the loot was inside the SUV. Authorities could not immediately say why the vehicle and the money were abandoned.
Vehicle checkpoints were set up on the north and south ends of the Barona Indian Reservation in the hopes of catching the men, Turner said. The checkpoints were at Wildcat Canyon Road and San Vicente Road in Ramona, and at Wildcat Canyon Road and Willow Road in Lakeside.
The checkpoint operation lasted several hours but no suspects were found.
Santee Detectives responded to the scene and the investigation is continuing at this time.
Anyone with information is requested to contact the Sheriff's Department or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-580-8477.
-City News Service contributed to this report.