North Hollywood shootout

North Hollywood shootout
Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr., Glendale, California, 1993.png
Emil Mătăsăreanu, Glendale, California, 1993.png
Larry Phillips Jr. (left) and Emil Mătăsăreanu (right) in 1993 after being arrested in California for speeding
LocationNorth Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
34°11′29″N 118°23′46″W / 34°11′29″N 118°23′46″W / 34.19139; -118.39611
DateFebruary 28, 1997
9:17 a.m. – 10:01 a.m. (UTC-8)
TargetA branch of Bank of America.
Attack type
Bank robbery, shootout
WeaponsTwo Norinco Type 56 S
Norinco Type 56 S-1
Heckler & Koch HK91
Bushmaster XM-15 E2S Dissipator
Beretta 92
Deaths2 (both perpetrators)
Non-fatal injuries
18[1]
PerpetratorsLarry Eugene Phillips Jr.
Decebal Ștefan Emilian Mătăsăreanu

The North Hollywood shootout was a confrontation between two heavily armed and armored bank robbers, Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu, and members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in the North Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California, on February 28, 1997. Both perpetrators were killed, twelve police officers and eight civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and other property were damaged or destroyed by the nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the robbers and police.[1]

At 9:17 a.m., Phillips and Mătăsăreanu entered and robbed the North Hollywood Bank of America branch. The two robbers were confronted by LAPD officers when they exited the bank and a shootout between the officers and robbers ensued. The robbers attempted to flee the scene, Phillips on foot and Mătăsăreanu in their getaway vehicle, while continuing to engage the officers. The shootout continued onto a residential street adjacent to the bank until Phillips was mortally wounded, including a self-inflicted gunshot wound; Mătăsăreanu was incapacitated by officers three blocks away, and subsequently bled to death before the arrival of paramedics more than an hour later. Phillips and Mătăsăreanu are believed to have robbed at least two other banks using similar methods by taking control of the entire bank and firing illegally modified automatic weapons chambered for intermediate cartridges for control and entry past 'bullet-proof' security doors, and are possible suspects in two armored car robberies.[2]

Standard issue sidearms carried by most local patrol officers at the time were 9 mm pistols or .38 Special revolvers; some patrol cars were also equipped with a 12-gauge shotgun. Phillips and Mătăsăreanu carried illegally modified now fully automatic Norinco Type 56 S-1s (an AK-47 variant), a Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator with high capacity drum magazine, and a Heckler & Koch HK-91 rifle, as well as a Beretta 92FS pistol. The robbers wore mostly homemade, heavy plated body armor which successfully protected them from handgun rounds and shotgun pellets fired by the responding officers. A police SWAT team eventually arrived bearing sufficient firepower, and they commandeered an armored truck to evacuate the wounded. Several officers also appropriated AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles from a nearby firearms dealer. The incident sparked debate on the need for patrol officers to upgrade their firepower in preparation for similar situations in the future.[3]

Due to the large number of injuries, rounds fired, weapons used, and overall length of the shootout, it's regarded as one of the longest and bloodiest events in American police history.[4] Both men had fired approximately 1,100 rounds total,[vague] while approximately 650 rounds were fired by police.[5] Another estimate is that a total of nearly 2,000 rounds were fired.[1]

Backgrounds

Mătăsăreanu in 1982, as a teenager
Phillips as a child, with his father

Larry Eugene Phillips Jr. (born September 20, 1970) and Decebal Stefan Emilian "Emil" Mătăsăreanu (born July 19, 1966, in Romania) first met at a Gold's Gym in Venice, Los Angeles, California, in 1989. They had a mutual interest in weightlifting, bodybuilding, and firearms.[6] Before meeting, Phillips was a habitual offender, responsible for multiple real estate scams and counts of shoplifting. Mătăsăreanu was a qualified electrical engineer and ran a relatively unsuccessful computer repair business.[7]

On July 20, 1993, Phillips and Mătăsăreanu robbed an armored car outside a branch of FirstBank in Littleton, Colorado.[8] On October 29, they were arrested in Glendale, northeast of Los Angeles, for speeding.[9] A subsequent search of their vehicle—after Phillips surrendered with a concealed weapon—found two semi-automatic rifles, two handguns, more than 1,600 rounds of 7.62×39mm rifle ammunition, 1,200 rounds of 9×19mm Parabellum and .45 ACP handgun ammunition, radio scanners, smoke bombs, improvised explosive devices, body armor vests, and three different California license plates.[10] Initially charged with conspiracy to commit robbery,[11] both served one hundred days in jail and were placed on three years' probation.[12] After their release, most of their seized property was returned to them, except for the confiscated firearms and explosives.[13]

On June 14, 1995, the pair ambushed a Brinks armored car in Winnetka, killing one guard, Herman Cook, and seriously wounding another.[14] In May 1996, they robbed two branches of Bank of America in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, stealing approximately US$1.5 million.[15] Phillips and Mătăsăreanu were dubbed the "High Incident Bandits" by investigators due to the weaponry they had used in three robberies prior to their attempt in North Hollywood.[16]

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