The robbery may have taken longer than planned, but the bigger problem for the robbers was the fact that the streets of Cisco were full of children and Christmas shoppers who gathered near the bank to see the man dressed as Santa Claus. Citizens and law enforcement fired at the robbers who responded by returning fire and taking two children as a hostage as the robbers made their first escape. Police Chief Bedford and Deputy George Carmichael were mortally wounded, as were several civilians and one of the robbers.
News of the attack spread quicker than the robbers, who had to abandon their getaway car after discovering that they had limited gas and a flat tire. Dozens of men joined what would become the largest manhunt in Texas history until each of the three living robbers were caught.