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Santa Monica Bank Robber Wanted for 'Cultural Appropriation,' News Site Reports

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By Jorge Casuso

September 17, 2019 -- A story posted Tuesday on the Yahoo! news site reports that an at-large bank robber wearing a "Day of the Dead" mask is wanted by Santa Monica police for "cultural appropriation."

The story in the site's Lifestyle section claims the suspect who held up the Wells Fargo Bank at 900 Montana Avenue last Tuesday "may be charged with cultural appropriation, in addition to bank robbery."
Wells Fargo bank robber(Courtesy SMPD)

Police are still searching for the suspect, who escaped with between $3,000 and $5,000 in cash ("Santa Monica Bank Robber at Large After Extensive Police Search," September 10, 2019).

Four hours after the Yahoo! story was posted, some 200 readers had reacted. Among the comments:

"In California the punishment is likely more severe for cultural appropriation than armed robbery."

"What makes them think the robber isn't Mexican?"


"Tell me this is a joke or that the entire police force is getting fired."

"Did they get this from The Onion?"

The Yahoo article is based on a story that ran Tuesday in the Santa Monica Observer.

"Like Barbie, the masked gunman who knocked over a Wells Fargo Bank needs cultural sensitivity training," the article by Stan Greene said.

"If the cops can't find him, the Twitter Mob will."

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Greene -- whose image accompanying the byline has been "removed for reasons of personal security" -- quotes what he says is a press release issued by the Santa Monica Police Department.

"It is important to recognize the inherent dignity of indigenous cultures," the Observer quotes the release as saying.

"Use of a Day of the Dead Mask during a robbery can be a separate offense or an enhancement, under the California Penal Code.

"In this case, the suspect is sought for violating the rights of indigenous peoples, and for bank robbery."

In her article, Yahoo! reporter Elise Solé said "a representative of the Santa Monica Police Department did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment."

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo, however, issued the following statement:

“We are working with law enforcement and are unable to provide more details as this is an ongoing criminal investigation," the spokesperson said.

"Wells Fargo values and promotes diversity and inclusion in all aspects of business at all levels.

"We do not tolerate racism, cultural appropriation or discrimination of any kind.”

The Lookout called Santa Monica Police to verify the validity of the police press release quoted in the Observer article that was the basis for Yahoo's report.

"That's completely bogus," department spokesperson Lt. Candice Cobarrubias said.

Editor's note: After the Observer's news article was disseminated on the internet, the paper added the following statement at the end of the article on Wednesday:

"This article is intended as satire, no one from the SMPD
actually said the unidentified bank robber could be charged with cultural appropriation. We thought it was kind of obvious."

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