In a bizarre scene followed by TV helicopters, a large crowd pressed in as deputies with guns drawn pulled two men from the SUV in South Los Angeles. City police came to their aid and formed skirmish lines to move the crowd back.
Along the pursuit's route, people were seen scooping up the money.
Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith said it appeared the suspects threw the money in hopes of drawing people into the roadway to block the pursuing patrol cars.
"A lot of people came out their houses, they saw this on TV, they saw that money was being thrown," Smith told KNBC-TV.
Several hundred people gathered around the deputies during the dangerous moment of arrest.
"I think one of the folks told me that they thought there was more money in the vehicle and maybe they were hoping to get a little bit of that," Smith said.
One officer had a foot run over during the incident but was expected to be OK, he said.
The incident began 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the suburban Santa Clarita area where four men committed an armed bank robbery, Los Angeles County sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker told KCAL-TV that it began with four men committing an armed robbery in the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County.
The robbers fled south by freeway and en route two robbers bailed out of the SUV in the Sylmar area of the San Fernando Valley. Those two remained at large Wednesday afternoon.
The pursuit continued into downtown Los Angeles where the SUV exited the freeway and began a circuitous route through the older, narrow streets of the city's central and southern areas.
The 90-minute chase came to an end when a big, heavy duty pickup made a right turn from a side street and blocked the SUV's path. It was not clear whether that driver did so intentionally.