The Lufkin Police Department is investigating the theft of an automated teller machine, and Crime Stoppers has cash available to reward for the first, most accurate anonymous tip that helps solve the crime.

The investigation began around 3:30 a.m. Friday when officers responded to an alarm at Southside Bank on South Timberland Drive. Upon arrival, officers saw the drive-up ATM was missing and followed a debris trail from the bank to the parking lot of First United Methodist Church on East Denman Avenue, according to a press release from Detective JB Smith.

In the church parking lot, the officers found the ATM attached by chains to a Ford truck, which itself had been stolen, the release states. It appears the thieves were forced to abandon their prizes when one of the chains they used to drag the ATM broke.

The ATM was not entered, so no money was taken, but the damage costs are great, according to the release. The thieves are believed to have fled on foot from the church toward the intersection of East Denman Avenue and South Chestnut Street. They wore masks but should be easily recognized by anyone who knows them.

“I followed them, locked eyes and they ran on foot,” said Will Carver, of Lufkin, who took photos at the scene. “It was surreal. I told (officer Jennifer Payne) we locked eyes and it felt like a lifetime."

Carver said he had just turned off Martha Street toward Pure Energy "and I was like, that trailer has a flat, sparks everywhere, so I U-turned and followed them into the church parking lot and realized that's not a trailer, and I saw it swinging back and forth."

Included here also are images pulled from the bank's security camera. Anyone who recognizes the criminals is asked to submit a tip anonymously at 639TIPS.com or call (936) 639-TIPS.

Smith said readers might see other requests to assist with this investigation, but reminds citizens that only tips and calls made directly to Crime Stoppers are anonymous and reward-eligible. Information provided directly to a law enforcement officer/agency and information already known to investigators cannot be rewarded.

Stacy Faison's email address is stacy.faison@lufkindailynews.com.