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True crime. Casually done.

North Hollywood Shootout: The Bank Robbery That Went Horribly Wrong

Written by George Colclough

Introduction:

American bank robbery was experiencing something of a renaissance during the 1990’s, and was hitting levels of both quantity and ferocity not seen since the high point (or low point depending upon your perspective) of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson’s robberies in the 1930’s. The number of bank robberies in America rose from an apparently modest figure of 850 a year in 1975, up to 3,500 a year in 1985, which continued to increase to a shocking 9,388 in 1991: equivalent to one bank robbery every 16 minutes, every day, of every week, of the year.

Now I hate to have to take a proverbial dump in your cornflakes dear viewers, but you may be disappointed to know that not every robbery within this vastly inflated figure was a bold, daring, or exciting heist worthy of immortalisation in a classic move such as Heat, or Ocean’s Eleven. In fact they tended to be much more mundane affairs, netting an average take of $6,559. Furthermore, within the 9,388 bank robberies that occurred in 1991, shots were fired in 134 of the robberies, 3 of the robberies involved explosive devices, 132 people were injured, 27 killed, and 135 people were taken hostage.

By this point readers, after hearing that underwhelming declaration I suspect your mice are drifting towards the next post in disappointment, but stop! Don’t be disappointed, drag that mouse away from the next post (smash that like and subscribe button en route), and make yourself comfortable for the next hour or so; just because “MOST” robberies of the period may have been mundane affairs, it doesn’t mean they all were, and it is one such robbery we are looking at today.

And it’s not just “ANY” bank robbery we are looking at today ladies and gentlemen, today’s episode isn’t a simple post office sawn off shotgun stick up, au contraire, we at the Casual Criminalist aspire to bring you, our much loved audience nothing but the most exciting and biggest heists (written by the most handsome writers on all of Youtube): today we examine a most special and extreme case indeed.

Today we will travel back to the morning of February the 28th 1997 in Los Angeles, California. When Officer Loren Farrel, a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and his partner Officer Martin Perello, have just clocked on for the day, and as always are hoping for a pleasant and safe shift.

The pair are cruising down Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood, gossiping about the Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings hockey game a week prior, when Officer Farrel, who had been keeping his eyes and ears on the street suddenly requests his partner in command of the squad car to slow down.

Whitfield’s entire demeanour shifts suddenly, calm and jovial placidity replaced with alertness and inquisitive caution as adrenaline floods his system, he continues peering ahead at a white sedan parked by the Bank of America branch a couple of hundred yards beyond them.

“Stop the car!” He screams, as he finally realises what he is seeing.

“Over there, it’s a robbery, at the bank!” He says poking Officer Perello, gesturing wildly at the bank in front of them.

Perello does as instructed and glances ahead in the direction that Farrel is pointing. He almost misses it, but is able to focus his vision fast enough to just be able to catch a most clear image: a man entering the bank with a gun.

They report a 2-11 robbery in process, and set up an ambush position with their police cruiser as instructed. A few minutes pass, and the pair are confident of a quick and peaceful resolution, they are trained professionals, who believe they have all the training and experience needed to handle what was by now a routine situation.

This confidence evaporates in an instant – when a figure barely recognisable as a man underneath layers upon layers of body armour emerges carrying an AK, turns, begins shooting, and doesn’t stop for 44 minutes… This is the story of the North Hollywood Shootout.

The Robbers

Larry Phillips Junior, was a man whose entire life was shrouded by lies and intrigue.

If we look at Phillips’ birth certificate we already see quite a lot about the man. Born on Sunday the 20th of September 1970 at 10:14pm at the California Hospital on 1401 South Grand Avenue, he was the son of one Barbara Allen and Daniel Ira Warfel. His father Daniel was a trucker from Colorado, and his mother originated from Utah. They resided at 1332 South Bound Street, Los Angeles.

Already we encounter our first layer of mystery and intrigue surrounding Larry Phillips, because there is one small problem with the aforementioned details on his birth certificate ladies and gentlemen… they are total bollocks, completely fabricated! Their names, occupations, and addresses were all totally made up.[1]

In reality, Barbara Allen and Daniel Ira Warfel were in fact Dorothy Clay and Larry Eugune Phillips respectively, and they were fugitives on the run from the law, and in what some may call foreshadowing, Phillips’ parents were career criminals.

Larry Phillips Senior had one of the more interesting rap sheets we have seen on this channel. His crimes included a macabre drunken prank in which he and several of his friends dug up a coffin and stole the head of the poor deceased individual entombed within, armed robbery, and prison escapes.

When not in prison, Phillps Senior was very involved in his son’s life, and would take him to shooting ranges, wrestling matches, and to the gym, all the while preaching to his son about his strong dislike of law enforcement… As we will see from Phillips Juniors’ later behaviour, I think we can assume these were core memories for him.

Phillips Junior soon enough followed in his fathers footsteps, and developed quite the sizable rap sheet of his own during his younger years. He was first arrested on September the second 1989 after stealing $400 worth of suits from a Sears store in Alhambra. In 1992 he was arrested again after running a property rental scam in Denver, Colorado.

He was clearly a man obsessed with the idea of being rich, not only because of his early crimes, but also due to his well documented attempts at replicating Tom Vu’s get rich quick infomercials.

Money wasn’t Phillips’ only passion however, his two other passions were firearms, and bodybuilding, and it’s with these two that he struck up a budding friendship with one Emil Mătăsăreanu, his future partner in crime, at a Gold’s Gym in Los Angeles.

Mătăsăreanu was born in Timișoara, Romania on the 19th of July 1966. He was an unfit boy and frequently suffered from headaches on account of his epilepsy. His parents, Viorel and Valarie, who worked as a political dissident and State Opera member respectively, moved to the US in 1974 in search of better and more affluent lives for themselves.

An unhappy childhood full of taunting and teasing for his weight and unfamiliar accent blossomed into a happy adulthood, when a passion for computing led to him completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineers at DeVry Institute of Technology. He also developed a budding interest in firearms after being introduced to them by a very heavily armed neighbour in his late teens. 

Quick to want to make money and improve his lot in life, Mătăsăreanu opened an electronics business after graduation, and inspired by a lifetime of teasing, joined Gold’s Gym and got into bodybuilding.

With such overlapping interests, is it any surprise Phillips and Mătăsăreanu hit it off so well?

What at face value appeared to be a wholesome and mutually enriching friendship took a darker turn, when the pair were thinking about their love of firearms and money and thought they could combine their interests into a new hobby… armed robbery!

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Early Robberies:

The robbery of Bank of America Branch 384 that made Mătăsăreanu and Phillips famous was far from their only robbery, and in fact the pair carried out many more before the big one that made them famous.

Unlike many criminals who we explore on this channel, there wasn’t much of a creshendo with Mătăsăreanu and Phillips’ crimes. They didn’t start small and work their way up, a cheeky sawn off hold up here, the odd post office robbery there – oh no, quite the opposite. They hit it hard from the start, they immediately assembled a cache of military arms and armour, and put it to good use with all due enthusiasm and haste.

Their first robbery was a FirstBank owned armoured car in Denver, Colorado, on July the 20th, 1993. In this robbery, the guard was ambushed by Mătăsăreanu and Phillips carrying automatic weapons as he opened up the van, then forced at gunpoint to lie prone in the bank parking lot while they cleared out the van, netting the pair over $50,000. 

They were arrested on October the 23rd 1993, when upon being pulled over for speeding, a most bountiful cache was uncovered by the investigating officer. I (George) was of two minds about including the full inventory at risk of boring you dear readers, but just so we can appreciate the true absurdity of the incident, here it is:

A PolyTech semiautomatic rifle; a Norinco MAK-90 semiautomatic rifle; a Springfield Armoury .45 pistol; a Colt .45 pistol; 1,649 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition; three Chinese-made 75-round drum magazines loaded with 7.62x39mm ammo; 967 rounds of 9mm JHP ammo; 357 rounds of .45 JHP ammo; six smoke bombs; two improvised explosive devices; a gas mask; two sets of National Armor Level III-A vests; two 200-channel, portable, programmable scanners with earpieces; sunglasses, gloves, wigs, ski-masks, a stopwatch; two spray cans of gray Studio Hair Colour; three different California automobile license plates; and a sum of $1,620.

They were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, grand theft auto, unlawful weapons activity, and carrying a loaded firearm inside a car. Somehow, SOMEHOW, the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, and soon enough the pair were back on the streets to commit their next robbery.

That next robbery occurred on July the 14th 1995 in Los Angeles, California when Mătăsăreanu and Phillips ambushed a Brinks armoured security van. In this robbery, they tried to speed up the process by opening up the rear door of the truck with automatic rifle fire – killing 51 year old security guard Herman Dwight Cook, and injuring the 53 year old Felipe Cortez, the driver of the truck. They made off with over $30,000.

On March the 27th 1996 the pair attempted, and failed to rob another Brinks armoured van. The driver, after seeing two heavily armed men lurking in the alleyway he was due to stop in, made the pragmatic choice to skip that stop and keep on driving. The driver was left with minor injuries from flying glass after being fired upon by Mătăsăreanu and Phillips, but was otherwise unharmed and the boys left this robbery empty handed.

Soon enough Mătăsăreanu and Phillips, dissatisfied with the apparently meagre takings armoured van robberies were netting them, wished to graduate to proper bank robberies. They did this on May the second, 1996, when they stormed into a branch of Bank of America at Van Nuys, Los Angeles. They stuck to their now established modus operandi of using automatic weapons and heavy body armour. They took $755,048, a significant increase from their armoured van robberies.

A month later, on May the 31st 1996,  Mătăsăreanu and Phillips robbed another Bank of America branch, and made off with $794,200, leaving two bank tellers injured in the process. They were disappointed with this take, and believed that $2 million would be waiting for them, but due to new security measures, a significant portion of that money had been collected two days earlier.

The pair always planned extensively for their heists, spending weeks scouting possible targets, and covertly gathering supplies. They went above and beyond planning their next heist, determined that there was going to be no mistakes and unforeseen security measures.

Sadly (or fortunately depending upon your perspective), their next shootout was going to be an abject disaster, and result in one of the most destructive and high profile shootouts in modern American history.

The Bank Robbery:

Finally after months of planning, the big day finally came for Phillips and Mătăsăreanu. Their routine on the morning of the robbery is largely unknown, but I like to imagine the pair woke up early on February the 28th before the break of dawn, too excited to sleep like children on the morning of Christmas Day.

Following their plan to the letter, Phillips and Mătăsăreanu arrived at Bank of America branch 384 on Laurel Canyone Boulevard at 9:14am, in a blue 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity, which they had previously stolen and repainted white.

They took a few minutes to themselves in the car for some last minute preparations. We don’t know exactly what they discussed, but from CCTV footage it appears as though they reviewed their plan one last time: in and out in less than eight minutes, the known police response time. Then they both popped some phenobarbital pills  – a muscle relaxant and calming medication originally prescribed to Mătăsăreanu, but that they both took to keep their nerves under control.

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Finally ready to go, they donned their balaclavas and strolled around to the boot of the car, Phillips popped it and Mătăsăreanu quickly glanced over his shoulder to check they weren’t being observed – the pair then don their armour: Mătăsăreanu quickly got his comparatively light rig on, then turned to assist his friend with his significantly more substantial rig. They both grabbed a Beretta 92 pistol, and a Type 56 AK. They closed the boot and calmly strode over to the bank – wishing to save their breath and strength for their getaway. They opened the door, pushed a passerby inside with them… and began…

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Outside, as we already know from our introduction, Officers Loren Farrel and Martin Perello had spotted them by pure chance, and issued a 2-11 alert (the LAPD code for an armed robbery). The pair of officers worked in overdrive, to simultaneously call in reinforcements, attempt to find a good angle to ambush the robbers as they fled, and move civilians away from the area – all while they tried to remain as silent as possible to avoid starting a panic – and therefore not alert the robbers to their presence and risk a potential escalation or hostage situation.

Inside, Mătăsăreanu and Phillips announced their presence by emptying their 75 round drum magazines all around the bank. Terror overcame the bank in an instant: some ducked, some screamed, and some just froze in the face of the terrifying spectacle. Spent cartridges filled the floor, and a cascading snowstorm of flaked plaster fell from the ceiling. They then offered some ever so eloquent instructions to their hostages:

“Everybody down! Motherf*cker get down before I kill your ass!”

and

   “This is a fucking hold up! Everyone down motherf*ckers!”

There were, of course, numerous witnesses to this initial robbery, and fortunately for us many of them have come forward to offer their experiences to the press in the years since the robbery.

Fausto Serratos, a local businessmen who had entered the bank mere seconds before the start of the robbery recalled hearing:

“The loudest … and most fearsome gunfire I have ever heard.”

79 year old Mildred Nolte, who understandably was taking longer than most to get on the floor was slapped squarely across the face by Mătăsăreanu, and fell to the floor, losing her glasses and headscarf from the blow, she commented:

“I guess I didn’t get down fast enough.”

Matthew Shapiro, 16, who was in the branch with his family during the robbery commented:

“I heard gunshots and screaming voices – men’s voices yelling, “This is a holdup!” … I looked up, and I saw this big guy in all black, like armour. You couldn’t see his face.”

Anita Hernandez, clutching her 23 month old granddaughter during the robbery, immediately threw herself over her to shield her, later commenting:

“I knew the bullets would go right through me, but I got on top of her anyway.”

Mătăsăreanu and Phillips then made sure everyone had dropped to the floor in the same brutish manner as Mătăsăreanu had applied to poor Mildred Nolte, and they then turned their attention to securing their loot.

Mătăsăreanu stormed towards the armoured door that led to the teller enclosure. This was quite a substantial obstacle, being made from one and a quarter inch thick bullet resistant polycarbonate and acrylic composite panels… but it was only designed to resist pistol rounds up to and including .44 Magnum. A quick burst of Mătăsăreanu’s 7.62mm rifle tore through the lock like scissors to paper and quickly he was inside. Next on the to do list: find who had the keys to the vault.

John Villagrana, the bank’s assistant manager, with deafened ears and nostrils full of smokeless powder stepped forward to answer the gunman’s demands.

Mătăsăreanu screamed at John: “Get the money or we will kill you!”. At which point Villagrana made the rather pragmatic choice to acquiesce to his request and went to lead Mătăsăreanu to the vault, he was interrupted by the stock of Mătăsăreanu’s rifle being smashed across his face, “I’m doing what you want!” he shouted, desperately trying to reason with Mătăsăreanu.

Back outside of the bank Officers Farell and Perellio, haunted by the continuing screams and automatic fire emanating from the bank had moved to the south facing car park adjacent to the bank, and to get the most effective and safe arc of fire onto the soon to be fleeing robbers had move 15 feet apart. With little else he could do, an increasingly agitated and distressed Farell gave a commentary to dispatch.

At that point a security guard, who had been outside of the bank on a smoke break, and who somehow had totally missed the pleas for help that emanated from his radio strolled down the flank of the bank, lungs refreshed from a liberal application of nicotine. Having totally missed the police officers that had assembled on his right, he opened the door to the bank, and upon hearing the screams and gunshots, turned and ran.

Back inside the bank Mătăsăreanu was inside the vault, where he found five people and hurried them into the lobby, motivating them with another salvo of 7.62mm rounds directed to the ceiling. They were received by Phillips, who was working crowd control in the lobby, and thrown on the floor with the rest of the civilians. Everyone was subdued, compliant, and accounted for, now Mătăsăreanu could properly set about securing the loot.

Outside of the bank Farell continued his transmission, he informed dispatch of updates: shots fired, screaming etc, as well as informing inbound officers of where he deemed it best for them to set up upon arrival. He wanted a car opposite the entrance, another car to join him on the south side of the bank, and another to blockade the northwards ATM lobby of the bank.

Officers now began arriving at the scene en masse. At 09:19am, 126 seconds after Officer Farrell first made a call for aid, Detectives Tracey Angeles and William Krulac arrived and began evacuating the surrounding commercial district. At 09:20am, 171 seconds after Officer Farell’s call, Sergeant Larry Haynes arrived, and as instructed blocked the southbound lane of traffic with his police cruiser.

At 09:25am, twenty five seconds after his arrival Sergeant Larry Haynes noticed the door of the bank swing open, and who should it be, but Larry Phillips. Curiously Phillips was calm, he appeared surprised and inquisitive rather than furious or aggressive. Possibly he had been made suspicious by the lack of moving traffic outside of the bank, or simply he was being cautious. Either way, the game was up, Phillips clearly saw police cruisers, albeit not all of them, and he now knew him and Mătăsăreanu were going to be putting all of their extensive planning and training to use and shooting their way out.

Back inside the bank things started to go very wrong, and the extensive range of security measures recently implemented by the Bank of America to combat armed robberies was starting to bite Mătăsăreanu, the bag man, on his arse. To say he found this irksome, would be somewhat of an understatement.

For starters, The Bank of America had started to deliver cash in much smaller, broken down quantities compared to what they had been in the past; in order to deter “snatch and grab” thefts. These smaller boxes all had to be opened and transferred in the narrow eight minute window they had planned for. Nonetheless, despite being deathly furious at the delay he ordered Villagrana, who he had kept by his side to start transferring the money into black hold all bags.

Then came the big problem, Bank of America had recently started to stagger and alternate the arrival times of its bulk cash deliveries, as well as running dummy or basically empty vans in order to deter armed robbery, and it had worked. Branch 384 had yet to receive its bulk cash shipment, and the vault was positively emaciated compared to what Mătăsăreanu and Phillips had been expecting to find.

Ironically, this problem was more self induced than we might first imagine. Bank of America, particularly in California, was suffering from an epidemic of armed robberies at the time… who do we know who had been causing the Bank of America a lot of losses during that time? That’s right! Mătăsăreanu and Phillips! Bank of America in particular was motivated to implement these new defensive measures specifically due to the robberies they had recently committed!

When he saw the positively barren loot on offer in the main vault Mătăsăreanu flew into a fit of blind rage. He turns to Villagrana, his tone becoming noticeably broken and enraged and screams at him:

“Where’s all of it? I want you to open up all of it! Now!”

Villagrana tried to reason with the 6 foot, 283lb monster that was in front of him, but Mătăsăreanu was having none of it. He snapped, pointed the muzzle of his Type 56 rifle into one of the cash boxes Villagrana had yet to transfer, and emptied his magazine into it. 75 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition tore the contents to shreds, caused a massive loss to what little loot was available and deafened Villagrana. On this matter he commented:

“All I can see he’s not believing me, cause all of a sudden he got very quiet, but now he’s putting his nozzle on me … he thought I was holding out on him … “more money or you die” … I was thinking “well, you know? This is really it for me now. Wow, can’t be, it’s too soon you know? I didn’t even say goodbye to my daughter.”

Villagrana bagged up $303,305 and told Mătăsăreanu that that was everything. He had done as instructed, and given him the lot – unfortunately for Mătăsăreanu and Phillips, “the lot” included three dye packs, which would burst and render most of the stolen cash worthless roughly six feet beyond Branch 384’s perimeter.

Phillips was still in the lobby, and becoming more and more agitated, possibly caused by the activation of his flight or fight instinct, and the subsequent huge dump of adrenaline he received after noticing the massing of police cars outside.

He strided up and down the lobby and checked his stopwatch. He became more and more aggressive in his screams to the terrified people in the lobby. He saw Mătăsăreanu heaving the black holdalls from the rear of the bank and barked an order to a member of staff, pointing wildly at the undamaged door on the south side of the teller kiosk he shouted:

“Open the door! Open the fucking door! Now!”

He then turned to a security guard on the floor and delivered a heavy kick from his armoured boot, and continued to bark further orders:

“Move these people to the vault.. Now!”

The guard, understandably, froze in fear, and was unable to complete the task, and instead several members of staff took it upon themselves to begin moving people to the vault. Phillips pushed the door slightly ajar, and recovered with Mătăsăreanu.

The robbery had been an abject disaster, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. They had barely gotten $300,000 for their efforts, their carefully planned 8 minute window of opportunity had completely collapsed and now the building was completely surrounded. With little else they could do Mătăsăreanu and Philips turned their attention to the forthcoming matter at hand: escape.

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The Shootout: Initial Response

The officers responding to the incident at Branch 384 were no strangers to armed robberies, and as they massed and surrounded the branch they all had some very strong preconceived expectations about how the confrontation would go down: the gunmen would dig in inside the bank when they saw that they were surrounded, and the “simple” robbery would escalate into a routine hostage situation and SWAT standoff. Unfortunately for the responding officers, that preconception was VERY wrong.

At 9:24am, after being inside Branch 384 for seven minutes and twenty two seconds, the north facing door of the bank’s ATM lobby was brutishly forced open, and from it emerged the colossal figure of a single man: over 300lbs of muscle and body armour – it was Philips, alone. He advanced beyond the concrete confines of the bank’s entry way, pivoted to his right, and was greeted by Whitfield and Haynes, who have both set up ambush positions behind their police cruisers.

With the smooth operation, and lack of hesitancy of an automaton Philips pointed the iron sights of his rifle squarely at Haynes, and clamped his finger down on the trigger. A volley of six rounds was unleashed at Haynes. Despite most of the incoming barrage being absorbed by the dense engine block of his police cruiser, he took one round to his left shoulder, and used the last remaining strength in his now immobilised arm to pull a civilian witness, Tracey Fisher to the floor with him as he collapsed. He was out of the fight, but also unable to be safely rescued or retreat.

The game had changed, these were not rounds being fired to scare or intimidate. These were rounds being fired to kill.

Phillips kept his rifle shouldered, and began to survey the situation. Noticing movement by the second police cruiser, he emptied the remaining 69 rounds of his Romanian drum magazine into the vehicle. So ferocious was this barrage, that glass fragments, and metal spalling from the cruiser acted as unintended canister shot, and sent shrapnel straight towards Martin Whitfield, who had been taking cover behind it. He is wounded in his left arm, right femur, and twice in his chest. Whitfield kept his composure throughout this traumatic ordeal, later commenting:

“You’ve been Shot! I thought: “Don’t panic! Then I was shot again, and again!”

Confusion raged around the responding officers, the unending concrete of North Hollywood echoed the thunderous booms of Phillips’ rifle fire in all directions, and made pinpointing his exact location difficult. Officers raced in all directions, desperate to find the fight and assist.

Sixty feet to the west, in the northeast corner of the bank’s parking lot sat another police cruiser, manned by rookie cops Dean Schram and William Lantz, who had six weeks, and five days on the force respectively.

The pair were ordered to relocate, and tried to make a b-line for the Del Taco car park to their rear. They were interrupted by fire from Philips, at which point Schram dropped back behind the immediate, and relative safety of their police cruiser, and Lantz with his back to Philips and unaware of the imminent danger he faced continued running for the car park.

Lantz took a round to the rear of his left knee, and fell to the ground. Heroically he still clutched his Ithaca 37 shotgun tightly, put himself behind the most solid cover he could drag himself to, and began returning fire on Philips, and the uninjured Schram did the same from behind the police cruiser.

To all intents and purposes Phillips had neutralised his immediate threats. But unbeknown to him, an “Officer needs assistance” call Haynes had made eight minutes prior had yielded dividends, and the full force of the LAPD was racing northwards to aid their wounded colleagues. The arriving officers dug in, and secured a wider perimeter around the north, south, and east exits from the bank.

At the same time Officer Zboravan took the initiative and attempted to flank Philips. The rookie officer, who had only been on the force for six weeks (in the same graduating class as Officer Dean Schram) was not letting his relative inexperience be any kind of barrier to a bold and daring feat of heroics. He circled the row of stores to Phillips’ flank, racked his Ithaca Model 37 shotgun and stepped out to engage Philips, who now had his back to him. He pointed his iron sights squarely on Philips back, pulled the trigger, racked it, and fired a second time.

Phillips stood 211 feet away from Zboravan, so it was incredibly unlikely the rookie officer would land the shot, but much to Zboravans dismay, he saw Phillips stagger forward, and indeed eight pellets had landed on Phillips back, one of which even found a path through a small gap between his torso and leg armour, and subsequently planted itself firmly in Phillips’ arse.

Unfortunately for Zboravan, this was little more than an inconvenience for Phillips, whose attention was now firmly on Zboravan ,the row of shops he had circled, and the officers fortified within them. He grabbed a fresh drum magazine, reloaded his rifle, and poured fire into the surrounding area. In a further display of heroism from Zboravan, he threw himself down on top of the unarmoured Detective Angeles, and rounds destined for the Detective struck his body mere seconds after landing.

With that situation pacified, Phillips turned his attention back northwards, where Haynes, Whitfield, and three civilians were still trapped. As much as they prayed otherwise, they were about to be brutally shown that Phillips had not forgotten about them.

Phillips continued to sink countless rounds into Haynes’ police cruiser and the area surrounding it. Haynes saved Tracey Fisher’s life again when she lost her cool, and stood up and attempted to flee the scene despite the incoming fire. Haynes grabbed her ankle and pulled her back down behind cover, mere moments before the car behind she was standing behind was shredded by 7.62mm rounds.

The Officers and Detectives by the row of stores took this opportunity to remove themselves from the scene. Zboravan had been hit three times whilst shielding Detective Angeles. He was losing a worrying amount of blood, and he needed immediate medical attention. Zboravan and Krulac attempted to sneak across the carpark, taking their time to move low and slow and hoping Phillips wouldn’t spot them. This did not work, and upon seeing the retreating officers Phillips began dumping magazine after magazine towards them.

At the same time Officer Guy and Detective Angeles were trying to make a break across the north of the car park. Guy made it behind the relatively safe cover of a Dodge Caravan, but Angeles didn’t share the same luck – she tripped, losing her pistol and radio in the process, and was subsequently left completely exposed in the open.

Fortunately for Angeles, Phillips then pivoted towards Krulac and Zboravan, who were making a break for a nearby dentists office and started opening fire on them – whether this was an act of mercy on his part, or the simple pragmatism of Angeles no longer presenting an immediate threat, we do not know.

Krulac and Zboravan crashed through the glass door of the dentist’s office, which had been shot out by Phillips mere seconds before their approach. The owner of the practise, one Dr Jorge Montes, who was hiding in the rear of his building with his staff and patients came to investigate upon hearing the sound of smashing glass and screaming in his lobby, and immediately began providing what medical assistance to the badly wounded Officer Zboravan, and Detective Krulac, the latter of whom had taken a shrapnel wound to his right ankle as he fled across the car park. Both needed immediate hospital treatment – but for obvious reasons that would not be forthcoming.

You may be wondering now ladies and gentlemen in the audience, where are all those reinforcements that were racing to the scene previously? They had set up another cordon beyond that set up by the initial responding officers, as already mentioned, and a number of problems were stopping them rushing in and subduing the gunman.

Firstly they knew full well that they were outgunned – having nothing more than 9mm self loading pistols to face against automatic rifle fire.

Secondly, in this initial stage of the shootout Command & Control had completely collapsed, with early co-ordination being carried out between responding officers on the ground, and police control over radios, and as the aforementioned officers were incapacitated, or otherwise occupied co-ordination eventually collapsed. Fortunately, Lieutenant Nicholas Zingo, the North Hollywood Watch Commander at this point arrived on the scene to take command, and he began to coordinate some kind of effective resistance against the gunmen.

With the initial responders subdued, and Phillips’ magazines nearly empty, a lull in the fighting ensued, and at 9:28am, a mere four minutes after the shooting started, Phillips retreated back to Branch 384 to reconvene with Mătăsăreanu and plan their next move.

The Shootout: Flight from Branch 384

Phillip and Mătăsăreanu’s movements back within the bank are largely unknown, with all the staff having been evacuated to the bank vault before the shootout began. At 9:30am they were spotted entering the north facing ATM lobby by the machines in built security cameras, bags of loot in tow.

They hunkered down, and from the relative safety of the ATM lobby’s concrete walls began to lay down fire on newly approaching officers and the initial responders. Displaying exceptional skills and drills for a lowly pair of bank robbers, Mătăsăreanu and Phillips exchanged firing positions multiple times and covered each other’s reloads as they threw hundreds of rounds out of the lobby.

In response to this renewed barrage of gunfire the wounded Officer Zboravan began doing what he could to gather all of the wounded officers to the relative safety of Jorge Montes’ Dental Clinic. Desperately he urged Stuart Guy and Tracey Angeles over his radio to run for it, and they did exactly that. The gunmen still held up in the ATM lobby immediately responded with gunfire as they attempted to move.

Tracey Angeles made it, and as rounds perforate the air around her, she crashed into the dental clinic on the same spot where Zbvoravan and Krulac had landed minutes earlier. Stuart Guy is less lucky. Zbvoravan from upstairs, and Angeles from the floor of the lobby turned and saw a splattering of fine red mist erupt from their comrades knee, and he fell out of view beneath the surrounding cars.

The wound lifted Guy from his feet as his leg collapsed out from under him. Firmly immobilised, but very much alive he did what he could to stabilise his condition: he dragged himself a few feet and rested his back against the wheel of a white Dodge Caravan, and then used his gun belt as a jury rigged tourniquet to stop his knees heavy bleeding.

At this point the pair were low on ammunition and needed to resupply, having gotten a bit too trigger happy during the initial robbery and subsequent confrontation with police. Mătăsăreanu remained in the ATM lobby, and laid down covering fire for his criminal comrade as Phillips moved northwards, back towards their Chevrolet Celebrity. This would prove to be a major error, the pair were split up, uncoordinated, and had surrendered the reasonably defensible position of the ATM lobby and its four solid concrete walls. Now instead of having their opponents channelled towards them into controllable arcs of fire, Phillips, and later Mătăsăreanu would get attacked from multiple angles.

Phillips made it to the car unscathed, of course he stopped to take a few pot shots along the way. At the car he grabbed a fresh complement of drum magazines for his Type 56.

Mătăsăreanu then went to do the same, but he was not as lucky as Phillips. Just as he reached the getaway car he was interrupted by two bullets. One pistol round, fired by one Officer Tomlyn scored a glancing blow just above his right eye, opening up a 6 inch wound across his face, but leaving him otherwise unharmed and fighting fit. Mătăsăreanu may have been physically fine, but mentally this struck him deep. He fell to one knee by the bonnet of the car, and in disbelief or pain kept feeling around the wound. He was shocked – one inch deeper and he would have been a dead man. At this point, as Mătăsăreanu was proverbially licking his wounds, the second round hit him, scoring a grazing shot across his right calf.

He abandoned his bag of loot, got in the car and fired it up.

A desperate call was heard over the police radio, repeatedly screaming:

“Do not stop the getaway vehicle, they’ve got automatic weapons, there’s nothing we have that can stop them.”

This was seemingly unknown to Phillips, who was still in the North car park happily unloading volleys of fire into approaching officers and media helicopters, five of which were now circling overhead and would continue to do so for the remainder of the shootout.[2]

The drive through banking lane in particular seemed to be of particular interest to Phillips, who must have reasoned it was an ideal place for a police ambush. Two unidentified officers came to approach this way across the rear of the lot, and were warned off by a volley of a dozen rounds. Two officers, Bancroft and Harley, who had been watching from a distance to the south, took this as an opportunity to strike and began unloading at Phillips. Officer Brentlinger, who was stationed between the two groups of officers also joined in, shooting twenty seven rounds at Phillips, all of which hit, but none of which injured penetrated his body armour.

This became the Police’s tactic for several minutes: one group of officers unloaded their pistols at Phillips, praying one of them found a chink in his armour, and while Phillips was distracted returning fire, the other groups would open up, and repeat.

At this same time, a CRASH (anti gang) unit was having the big brain idea of trying to procure some heavier firepower that might actually be able to put Phillips down. They headed to the B&B gun store on Oxnard Street, less than a mile from Branch 384. Five Colt Sporters, two Remington Model 1187 shotguns, and a liberal amount of filled magazines were happily handed over by a civil minded owner who was more than willing to be of assistance.

Thankfully at this point in the shootout the wounded officers from the initial confrontation also began to be rescued. Orders were to not attempt to extract wounded officers while the shooting was still in progress – owing to the risk of creating further casualties. Officers Anthony Cabunoc and Todd Schmitz, jointly said fuck that, and bravely began sweeping the scene while keeping their heads down and extracted who they could, they came across Guy and Whitfield, and managed to extract them both before the arrival of an armoured car many minutes later.

Mătăsăreanu by this point had reconnected with Phillips, the former of whom was sat in the driver’s seat of the car ready to make a break for it, while the latter stayed outside and provided covering fire in the direction of anyone brave enough to approach the pair – eventually he moved to the boot of the car and swapped his Type 56 for an HK91 – why exactly we aren’t sure, as car the was eventually recovered with plenty of 7.62mm AK rounds still in the boot.

The pair’s actions during this somewhat of a lull can only be described as time wasting. They went nowhere, and seemingly did naught but continue to harass oncoming officers with barrages of rifle fire. All the while, the car was getting more and more shredded, less and less serviceable, and bullets kept bouncing off of Mătăsăreanu and Phillips. How long before one of those bullets hit something important on the car, and how long until some of those bullets managed to find the weak points in the pair’s armour? Phillips even opened fire on the pursuing media helicopters at this point, and sent 30 rounds up towards the KCAL9 news chopper – why?

Meanwhile the police were only solidifying their position: more and more officers arrived on the scene, and what’s more SWAT had finally made their way through the immoble Los Angeles traffic and arrived on the scene – having had so little time to prepare that some still wore the outfits from their morning run, which had been interrupted by the shootout.

The SWAT team also requisitioned a passing Armoured transport car – not the best protection against the robbers’ heavy weaponry, but it was better than nothing, and allowed them to extract wounded officers and then try to get close to the assailants.

Suddenly, there was a desperate shout on the police scanner:

Suspect vehicle is moving, repeat, suspect vehicle is moving!

Mătăsăreanu had decided they were getting out of there, he swung the car around to Phillips and scooted over to the passenger seat. All Phillips had to do was hop in, and they could make their escape – and with the car already being down two tyres there wasn’t a moment to waste.

But for some reason, Phillips didn’t hop in. Instead he manoeuvred around to the rear of the vehicle, taking single aimed shots at as many officers in range as he went. All unwounded officers present, at least 6 that can be accounted for returned the favour and unloaded their magazines at Phillips, and in that 9mm volley at least three rounds struck Phillips. One round struck Phillips on his left hand, blowing a large chunk of flesh out from the palm of his thumb as it exited, and the second two striking his rifle, one impacting the dust cover and bolt, and the other into the magazine well. The HK91 was totally inoperable, new magazines couldn’t be inserted, and the action wouldn’t cycle properly. He fired off a couple more rounds, before the action totally locked up, and he then discarded the rifle on the floor.

Not to panic! He no doubt thought – he would simply retrieve another Type 56 from the boot. Well, there was no panic except for the extra wound he picked up in the process, when an officer landed a 1 in 1000 shot and placed a 9mm round up the sleeve of his body armour. This tore up his forearm, but luckily for Phillips it avoided any major muscles or nerves when it tumbled.

Now they finally could make good their escape, and to do so Mătăsăreanu took command of the car, while Phillips hovered on foot providing covering fire. This went quite well initially, with civilians and officers alike keeping their head down as Phillips began to unload in the direction of anything that moved.

I say it went well initially, because there was one problem… The new Type 56 was a complete heap of junk. Upon examining the rifle today, it appears as though it was converted for automatic firing by an enthusiastic apprentice on his first day in the proverbial workshop. It malfunctioned after three short bursts, and Phillips stopped to clear the malfunction, all the while Mătăsăreanu inched the car forwards, frantically trying to encourage his criminal comrade into the car and desperately pleaded for the pair of them to make an escape.

For some reason, and this one really boggles me viewers, so let me know what you think, after advancing with Mătăsăreanu for several yards, Phillips simply abandoned him, and made a break for it on foot.

Mătăsăreanu no doubt had some choice words for this sudden turn of character, and for the sake of Simon’s monetisation we will let yourselves in the audience fill in the blanks yourselves. Whatever blue words were uttered, Mătăsăreanu did the only thing he could do at this point, put his foot down and made a break for it himself.

Phillips’ Demise:

With his situation obviously deteriorating, Phillips stormed Eastwards down Archwood Street, and tried to maintain his situational awareness by sidestepping as he turned his head back and forth. Phillips’ luck would change in an instant, as in the next few seconds he would receive two wounds that would spell the beginning of the end for him.

The first was a 5.56mm round fired by an unknown SWAT officer in the distance. Unluckily for Phillips this round glanced off of his torso armour, and continued upwards, found a soft spot in his armour, and entered his shoulder. Luckily for Phillips, the high velocity of this round carried it straight through him, and since it avoided any major blood vessels or nerves he was able to carry on largely unimpeded from this wound, save for the blood loss. Ironically, had a “worse” pistol round with a lower velocity entered him at this point and “tumbled” rather than cleanly exiting, it would have left him in a much worse condition.

Phillips shook himself off from this round and continued seemingly unimpeded. He became fixated on an officer on the East side of Archwood and as he stepped out from behind a trailer, he received the second wound, again from an unidentified SWAT officer, in almost the exact same place as the first.

Unfortunately for Phillips he wouldn’t be able to shake this one off. Rather than a clean in-and-out, this round entered almost an inch lower, shattered his right collar bone, severed his subclavian artery, fractured his right shoulder blade, and went downwards into his back tissue.

As if fate wasn’t unkind enough to Phillips in that moment, this was the moment his junk Type 56 decided to jam: he let off a three round burst at approaching SWAT officers, and went to immediately repeat the favour, but the second round failed to eject properly, jammed up in the left hand side of the receiver, and temporarily rendered the rifle inoperable.

This should have been an easy enough malfunction to clear, but for some reason, possibly the very large hole in his left shoulder, Phillips was panicking and not thinking straight. He took a knee at the rear of the aforementioned trailer and charged the rifle three times, only worsening the problem. The first pull of the bolt pulled a fresh round from the magazine, and the forward motion of the bolt shoved it underneath the initial jammed round, and the final two simply smashed the jammed rounds together even tighter. His rifle was inoperable, and Phillips was well and truly up the proverbial creek without a paddle.[3]

John Caprarelli, a fifteen year veteran of the LAPD who was moving to intercept Phillips happened to catch a glimpse of him when instinctively turning his head to safely check for oncoming traffic, and decided enough was enough. He angled himself to have a clear view of Phillips’ back, raised his Beretta 92, and let off 6 rounds in under two seconds. He retreated, rendezvoued with several officers, who all then proceeded to empty their magazines at Phillips also.

Phillips then stood up, and with his primary weapon inoperable drew his own Beretta 92 and began slowly advancing on the officers, shooting as he walked. His stride seemed to have lost the self confident swagger it had when he first emerged from Branch 384, had he resigned himself to the inevitable?

Rounds continued to bounce off of Phillips’ armour as he exchanged shots with the intercepting officers. A round glanced across his right hand, tearing his glove, and leaving a slight graze on his hand and making him drop his pistol. Despite being the one of the most minor wounds he received, this appeared to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, and made him give up.

He looked down at the pistol, his entire body slumped as if letting out a sigh, retrieved the pistol from the ground and finally decided that he was done. He turned away from the pursuing police officers, placed the muzzle of his pistol under his chin, and after pausing for a couple of seconds pulled the trigger.

The 9mm Jacketed Hollow Point round penetrated straight through his skull, and Phillips was dead before his nervous system could even register the pain, a pink mist momentarily erupted through his ski mask, and Larry Eugene Phillps Junior, fell to the ground, dead.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M%C4%83t%C4%83s%C4%83reanu_lay.jpg

Mătăsăreanu’s Demise:

At the moment of Phillips’ suicide, 38 minutes into the shootout, Mătăsăreanu was alive and kicking, completely unaware of his partners demise. Unbeknown to him, he had only another six minutes left to live himself, and during this time his disjointed and directionless attempts to flee transformed into the actions of a wild and rabid dog backed into a corner. 

Mătăsăreanu was still in command of the Chevrolet Celebrity getaway car, although with three flat tyres, all its windows shattered, and bodywork riddled with bullet holes it was certainly worse for wares. He rolled through the intersection of Agnes and Gentry without slowing, forcing the oncoming traffic to slam to a halt, he was after one thing, and one thing alone in that instant, a new, serviceable getaway vehicle.

Ahead of him, a red Ford Tempo was trundling along, seemingly unaware of the abject chaos around it, and Mătăsăreanu violently pulled his Chevrolet Celebrity around in front of it with a handbrake turn, forcing the red saloon to stop.

Between the hordes of police cars in pursuit, the helicopters circling overhead, and the bullet ridden Chevrolet being driven by a masked man, the driver of the Ford Tempo eventually realised something was amiss, and made the undeniably sensible decision to throw the car in reverse and f*ck off. Mătăsăreanu, now out of his own car waved at the owner to come back, and when this somewhat optimistic gesture failed let a single round off at the Tempo in anger, fortunately hurting no one in the process.

He turned to face east, saw the heavily armoured remains of Phillips lying motionless in the dirt, and was left in no doubt about his odds of survival. He got back in his car, and did… nothing for several moments, seemingly in shock, before he threw the car in drive and continued his escape. He attempted to bring several more civilian cars to a stop, but failed, before he then laid waiting in ambush at an intersection in the hope of improving his odds.

He soon found his new ride after successfully pulling over an aerospace engineer named Bill Marr, who was on his way to work, and ironically had been diverted down his current path by the police blockade. Getting frustrated by the time he was taking to get out the car Mătăsăreanu took a shot at Bill Marr, wounding the poor man, who then fled the scene on foot, he then retrieved an XM15 rifle from the boot of the now immobile Chevrolet and tried to make good his escape in Bill’s Jeep Cherokee.

Two problems with that:

  1. The truck was fitted with a kill switch, which Bill immediately flipped when he realised he was being car jacked.
  2. The truck was a manual, and Mătăsăreanu didn’t know how to drive a manual.

During the commotion of this failed carjacking, a SWAT team had finally managed to close the gap with Mătăsăreanu and was bearing down on his position. They immediately opened up on Mătăsăreanu upon disembarking, pinning Mătăsăreanu down with suppressive fire and leaving him nowhere to run.

A two and a half minute firefight erupted. Eventually one Officer Anderson, who had been closing the gap with Mătăsăreanu had a clear line of sight, double tapped two rounds into the gunman’s centre mass. Mătăsăreanu staggered and slammed into the bonnet of his car, before sliding down it and collapsing.

Had Anderson finally downed Mătăsăreanu?

He had not. Owing to a thick steel trauma plate Mătăsăreanu had jury rigged onto his ballistic vest, this normally fatal shot, which would have made short work of the armour, was no more damaging that a very, very, VERY hard punch to the chest. Mătăsăreanu returned fire, some shots calculated and targeted, others being wild uncontrolled volleys that further tore his own car apart as they missed woefully.

At this point the SWAT team, upon noticing Mătăsăreanu was all but unarmoured on his legs, made the shrewd decision to target his lower body.[4]

Mătăsăreanu was hit again, and again, and again in the legs, and even after receiving over twenty rounds to the legs seemed undeterred.[5] Eventually he received a direct shot to his knee and collapsed down onto one leg, but rather than surrendering, hobbled over to the bonnet of the Chevrolet and used it as a platform to continue firing at the intercepting officers.

Mătăsăreanu received four further wounds from that kneeled position. The first was a shot that passed straight through his thigh, which as we’ve already learned, isn’t necessarily as bad as it first appears. Two further shots hit almost the same spot, but tumbled inside him, and caused extensive tissue and muscle damage.

He kept firing, somehow. A round hit his left angle, and he spun down onto the ground crumpled into a pile, as he writhed in pain he clamped his finger down on the trigger and let three rounds off as he fell. Finally, all but out of the fight: wounded and low on ammunition, Mătăsăreanu from his increasingly untenable position on the floor let out one final blind fired volley onto the officers from underneath the car. 

Officer Gomez, seeing his opportunity to bring the fight to a close, lined up his shot and emptied his magazine towards Mătăsăreanu. Three rounds landed into Mătăsăreanu’s forearm, all but tearing it to shreds.

Now separated from his weapon (and most of the arm holding it), the SWAT officers piled on Mătăsăreanu, and he held up what was left of his arms in surrender. The last shot was fired at 10:04am, 44 minutes after the first one was unleashed.

Mătăsăreanu was placed under arrest, but he seemed to find this somewhat objectionable, repeatedly making rather explicit requests for the police to shoot him in the head.

Mătăsăreanu would get his wish for death granted, but it wouldn’t be delivered from an officer’s AR15. Instead, Mătăsăreanu and Phillips had caused so much chaos, that the area wasn’t deemed safe for ambulances to enter until 70 minutes after the former’s surrender, and he bled to death, kicking and screaming on the floor, before any medical assistance could arrive for him.

America’s biggest and most devastating shootout was finally over.

The Arms and Armour

I don’t know about yourselves viewers, but I (George) personally found the insane variety of weaponry the criminals of today’s show assembled to be one of the most fascinating elements of the case, so I hope I won’t bore you all too much now if we take some time to examine the hardware that Phillips and Mătăsăreanu held in their cache. Even for those of you not super interested or clued up on firearms, it should nonetheless prove an interesting tangent, and allow you to be able to appreciate the sheer absurdity of the firepower that the pair brought to the table during the shootout.

A total of three Chinese Type 56 AK rifles were used in total throughout the robbery, with two being used by Phillips, and one by Mătăsăreanu. To all intents and purposes, and to avoid getting bogged down in pedantries, the Type 56 AK is an amalgamation of both the Soviet AK47 and AKM rifle, both of which were supplied to the People’s Republic of China by the Soviet Union during the mid 1950’s. Nominally the rifle is select fire (able to fire in both single self loading, and automatic), but the types used today were civilian grade self loaders illegally converted for automatic firing.

Mătăsăreanu and Phillips both used 30 round box magazines and 75 drum magazines in their Type 56’s.

The Type 56 is a reasonably heavy rifle, weighing 3.9kg unloaded, 4.8kg loaded with a 30 round magazine, and 5.9kg loaded with a drum magazine. It fires the 7.62x39mm Soviet round – quite a heavy round.

The accuracy of AK type rifles is hotly debated, but from personal experience they are perfectly accurate out to 300 yards when fired in single shot, but if you clamp your finger down on the trigger good luck getting a good grouping on a barn door at 25 yards – the first round goes where you want, the rest go where they want.

Mătăsăreanu also made use of a Bushmaster XM15-E2S during the shootout. The XM15 is a generally good quality self loading (semi automatic) AR15 style rifle manufactured by Bushmaster Firearms International, firing the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Once again, this rifle was a civilian self loader converted for automatic firing.

Mătăsăreanu used both 30 round box magazines and 100 round Beta C-Magazines in his XM15. It weighed 3.75kg unloaded, 4.2kg loaded with 30 box magazines, and 4.85kg loaded with the Beta C-Magazine, making it a bit lighter and generally a bit handier than the AK’s also used.

Personally, I (George) find AR type rifles to be perfectly acceptable firearms: reasonably accurate, reasonably reliable, and generally up to the task of keeping one alive when warranted… but I do find them a bit dull, they are the Toyota Corolla’s of the rifle world. 

As already alluded to, all of the automatic rifles used during the shootout, namely the Type 56 AK’s and the Bushmaster XM15 were legal (albeit not for convicted felons) in the State of California at the time, but had been illegally converted to automatic fire in the case of the Type 56’s, and select fire in the case of the XM15.[6]

Phillips also made use of a German manufactured Heckler and Koch M91A3, the self loading single shot civilian variant of the G3, the German Military’s former service rifle. Phillips’ modified rifle weighed 5.05kg unloaded, and 5.6kg when loaded with exclusively 30 round box magazines. It was chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO, a full sized rifle round rather than the intermediate cartridges used in the Type 56 and XM15, making it by far the most deadly and dangerous rifle used by the pair during the shootout.[7] 

Both Mătăsăreanu and Phillips also carried Beretta 92FS sidearms. This is basically your standard modern 9x19mm Parabellum self loading military pistol, pretty standard and there’s nothing overly exciting to report with these ones.

Both men also complemented their fearsome munitions with equally substantial armour. Phillips wore a self produced suit of aromatic polyamide body armour that as already seen, rendered him all but immune to the police’s small arms fire. His torso was enclosed in a Type III-A rated ballistic vest. His arms and legs were covered in Type III-A rated ballistic plates that had been cannibalised from spare bullet proof vests. Of particular note, Phillips appeared to value the health and wellbeing of his meat and two veg particularly highly, as his groin guard was reinforced substantially with extra armour plating. Phillips then topped his brutish ensemble with a custom made webbing harness, which utilised surplus military canteen pouches to serve as large ammunition pouches, and just for good measure, further topped this harness with extra ballistic plating.

Mătăsăreanu valued mobility much more than Phillips, who as you may have guessed from the aforementioned description preferred to be a slow but unstoppable force. Mătăsăreanu wore a lighter, and less protective Type II-A flak jacket, to which he jury rigged an inch thick steel trauma plate too just for good measure, other than that he wore no other armour.

As previously seen, the armour worn by Mătăsăreanu and Phillips rendered them all but immune to the Police’s small arms fire, with pistol and shotgun rounds simply bouncing off of them. Their armour also provided decent protection against rifle rounds, as low pressure, or decelerated 5.56mm rounds would also simply bounce off.

Casualties

When looking at particularly adrenaline inducing cases such as the North Hollywood Shootout it is easy to romanticise the events, and forget the true length and breath of the horrifying impact, both physical and mental, that the victims and casualties go through.

Fortunately no one besides Mătăsăreanu and Phillips died in today’s story, but every single wound inflicted leaves a life irreparably damaged, and a mind that will never truly rest soundly again. Combat is not sexy, it is not glamorous, it is among the most horrific things a human being can ever have to suffer through, and I pray that all of you watching and listening never have to end up on the scary side of a firearm.

So with that in mind, let us take a moment to review and commemorate the full list of casualties from the North Hollywood Shootout:

Sergeant Dean Haynes:

  • Shot in the left shoulder as he tried to move non combatants into cover. Finding himself pinned down and both unable to escape of his own accord, or be rescued, he continued to observe and report to his comrades about the gunmens status.

Officer Martin Whitfield:

  • Shot in the left arm, right femur, and twice in the chest. Despite being critically wounded he refused to be rescued until the firefight had come to its conclusion, and furthermore prioritised the rescue of civilians before himself.

Officer Conrado Torrez:

  • Received a glancing shot to the right side of his neck, and fortunately was left with only minor injuries.

Officer James Zboravan:

  • Shot twice by Mătăsăreanu, receiving major penetrating wounds to his back, thigh, and hip while using himself to shield a plainclothed detective – Tracey Angeles, who did not have body armour.

Detective William Krulac:

  • Shot in the right ankle.

Detective Tracey Angeles:

  • Received a glancing shot to the stomach.

Officer Stuart Guy:

  • Forearm and femur shattered by rifle fire. Tragically invalided out of the force after being unable to fully recover from his wounds.

Detective Earl Valladares:

  • Hit by shrapnel while taking cover behind his squad car.

Officer Ed Brentlinger

  • Shot in the left forearm, and hit by concrete shrapnel after discharging 27 rounds at the gunmen.

Officer William Lantz

  • Shot in the right knee while attempting to evade fire. Continued firing his Ithaca Model 37 even after being wounded.

Officer John Goodman

  • Injured by flying glass and shrapnel, as the minivan he was taking cover behind was targeted by Phillips.

Officer David Grimes

  • Injured in a traffic accident as he raced to the scene of the shootout.

Mildred Nolte

  • Punched in the face, and fell to the floor by Phillips in Branch 384.

John Villigrana

  • The bank manager who Mătăsăreanu took to the vault, was hit across the face by the stock of a Type 56 for supposed non compliance.

Javier Orozco

  • Assaulted by Phillips in Branch 384 when he refused to keep his face into the floor.

Barry Golding

  • Hit by shrapnel while taking cover with Sergeant Haynes during the initial shootout.

Tracy Fisher

  • Shot in the little toe as she took cover with Sergeant Haynes.

Michael Horen

  • Took a rifle round to the chest as he attempted to flee the scene.

Jose Haro

  • Owner of a locksmith opposite Branch 384, hit by shrapnel in the right arm and head as he hid from gunfire.

Dismembered Appendices

  • That was a bit of a marathon wasn’t it ladies and gentlemen, but hopefully an interesting one! There are quite a few videos already on YouTube of the twenty minute, “general overview” type on the North Hollywood Shootout, so rather than repeating what many of you may well have already seen I decided to do something a bit different with this one, and give you more of an indepth look at the actual shootout itself. Hopefully it wasn’t too long winded or boring!
  • I was fortunate in the production of this script in that a hell of a lot of very high quality amateur scholarship on the North Hollywood Shootout already exists, so I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone in that community, who’s collation and extensive exploration of all sources related to the shootout really expedited my production process.  

[1] In fact there is no 1332, South Bound Street, Los Angeles, they totally made the address up.

[2] The full footage is readily available on youtube, and is well worth a watch for anyone interested… after you’ve finished this post of course – that sweet, delicious reading time means I can pay my bills!

[3] This is actually a very easy jam to clear on an AK: top cover off, bolt assembly out, shake the rounds out, and return the bolt assembly and top cover… it’s easy enough from the comfort of my air conditioned office anyway. If I was in the middle of a firefight, and had been shot many, many times, odds are I’d be a bit sloppy too.

[4] It may sound stupid to us as viewers that it took the police this long to realise this, but if I may offer some insight… in combat you are a creature of impulse and muscle memory, as a combatant you are drilled and drilled and drilled on procedure to the point that your body’s muscle memory naturally goes to execute it even if completely overcome with stress and anxiety. Likely the responding officers up to this point were simply aiming for the centre mass as drilled into them during training. This was in very stressful circumstances, and it’s only when the initial burst of adrenaline, and flight or fight instinct subsided they were likely able to notice what to us as onlookers, is blindly obvious.

[5] Adrenaline is a hell of a drug yo.

[6] Converting a self-loading rifle into an automatic one is actually a surprisingly straight forward process, and generally within the means of anyone with access to even a basic home workshop. Now of course, we at The Casual Criminalist do not advocate such conversions except by those with the legal means to produce and possess such weapons, but for the sake of academic curiosity allow to me to outline how simple the process actually is: albeit simplified, the process basically amounts to fabricating a new (more complex) trigger group, drilling some holes in the receiver and dropping it in. A competent and experienced gunsmith could convert an AK type rifle to automatic firing in less than an hour in their workshop, and an amateur engineer who knows their way around a milling machine could complete it in an afternoon with instructional materials. For anyone interested in knowing more, Armament Research Services have produced a series of fantastic reports on craft produced and modified firearms, all of which are available free from their website.

[7] *GENERALLY, ballistics can be a nightmare to get your head around.

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