A dead ringer for 24's President David Palmer in a dark suit and tie with a white collared shirt walked into a Lake Forest Payday Loan store around 9 a.m. on June 10, 2009, pulled out a loaded semi-automatic handgun and held it at the head of a 61-year-old customer. He ordered the teller to empty her cash drawer and a safe or he'd blow the poor sap's head off. This led to a scary showdown with sheriff's deputies at the store, a high-speed chase through three South County cities and, ultimately, the surrender of Tracy Ramon Seward, who turned out to not only be a retired Marine and school security guard but the gunman who robbed a Tustin check-cashing business a month earlier.
Fortunately, the hostage walked away from the Lake Forest robbery unharmed, although one wouldn't blame him if he shit his trousers. The teller had complied with Seward's orders to give him all the cash, but despite his warning about tripping an alarm she managed to contact authorities anyway. Deputies arrived while Seward was still inside the business at 23775 El Toro Road, and with the gun still at the 61-year-old's head, President Palmer's lookalike used the old man as a human shield, ordering the deputies to, in the words of 24's Jack Bauer, "Drop your weapons!"
He then forced his hostage into a blue Mitsubishi Montero and drove off. This led to a 45-minute pursuit that reached speeds of 115 mph through Lake Forest, Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods, where Seward ran man than 40 red lights, blew through 15 stop signs and drove on the wrong side of many roads. Several schools along the chase route had to be closed as a precaution.
At one point, Seward crashed into and damaged the second car before finally stopping in the parking lot of a three-story business building on Mill Creek Drive in Laguna Hills. Seward then surrendered.
Once the former La Mirada School District security guard was in custody, a Tustin Police investigator noticed the similarities between the Payday Loan heist and the May 13, 2009, robbery of a Check N' Go in his city. Around 2:45 p.m. that day, Seward walked into the check cashing business, pulled out his semi-automatic firearm and pointed it an employee, ordering her to give him cash. She handed him a wad from her register and, with the gun still pointed at her head, he ordered her to empty the safe.
But the safe had a 10-minute time delay, so Seward locked the front door of the store using the employee's keys and cut the phone lines with a knife from his pocket. He forced her to the back of the store to retrieve the surveillance tape and then, once the safe opened, to get him the money. She was ordered to lie on the ground at the back of the store and count to 100 as Seward fled the scene.
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The Laguna Hills 41-year-old pleaded guilty today to two felony counts of robbery and one felony count each of aggravated kidnapping, use of a firearm to resist arrest, evading police officers, possession of stolen property, and a sentencing enhancement allegation for the personal use of a firearm. He was then sentenced to 13 years in prison plus an additional life sentence.
If he keeps his nose clean, Seward will be eligible for parole in 19 years.