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North Hollywood Shootout, February 28th, 1997, Los Angeles,
Transcript of North Hollywood Shootout, February 28th, 1997, Los Angeles,
On February 28th, 1997, two masked men armed with automatic weapons and body armor attempted to rob a Bank of America in North Hollywood, California. The two suspects were Larry Phillips Jr.(Left) and Emil Mătăsăreanu(Right).
At approximately 9:17 AM, the two suspects, Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu, were confronted by Los Angeles Police officers as they exited the building and a shootout began. Numerous officers and civilians were caught in the middle of the firefight.
At the time of the incident, Los Angeles Police officers were armed with either a 9mm or .38special handgun. Additionally, some officers had a 12 gauge shotgun in their squad cars. Officers were equipped with body armor, however it would not stop any penetration of the suspect's modified assault rifles.
Suspect Weapons and Tactics
Both masked suspects were heavily armed with illegally modified fully automatic assault rifles and drum magazines that were capable of penetrating officer's bullet proof vests. Additionally, both suspects wore heavy body armor. As far as their tactics went, they planned on successfully robing the bank and equipping themselves with enough resources and ammunition for a shootout and to destroy the evidence. The suspects weapons were a Norinco Type 56 S-1s, Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator, and a HK-91 rifle with an attached drum magazine. The suspects loaded 5 rifles and brought 3,300 rounds of ammunition and brought a jar sized container of gasoline with the intention of setting the car and weapons on fire to destroy the evidence. Additionally, both suspects wore a Type IIIA bulletproof vest and one of the suspects wore a metal trauma plate on the torso to protect vital organs. Each suspect also wore an attached watch on their gloves and took a barbiturate phenobarbital, to calm their nerves. As they approached the Bank of America in a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity, they each set their watches for 8 minutes(projected police response time). As they entered the bank, the suspects held their weapons and told everybody to get on the ground and proceeded to the vault. However, the vault had not been restocked with money and the amount of money there was significantly less than the $750,000 projected by the suspects. Furious, one of the suspects argued with and demanded more with the bank manager and shot an entire drum of ammunition into the vault. The suspects then attempted to leave with the $303, 305 they had collected.
Police Tactics Used
At 9:17 AM, two Los Angeles Police officers spotted the suspects entering the bank as they were driving down Laurel Canyon road. The officers issued a 15-A-43 radio call(call for assistance) and reported a 211 in progress (armed robbery) at the Bank of America. Officers arrived on the scene and heard gunfire from the inside of the bank and requested for more units. After making the radio call, officers stationed themselves behind their patrol vehicles and set their sights on the bank entrance door. As more officers arrived, the tactical procedure was to restrict the ability to flee from the bank by setting up positions at all corners and entrances to the bank. At 9:32 AM, one of the suspects exited the front entrance and look as if he was scanning the police presence. Officers then told the suspect to drop his weapon and surrender himself, however the suspect walked back inside the building. After a couple of minutes, one of the suspects exited through the north(front) entrance and the other suspect attempted to exit through the south entrance of the building. After the suspects exited the building, the suspects proceeded to fire on officers and the officers engaged back. However, the officer's handgun had little to no effect on the suspects body armor and the tactic was to aim for the only uncovered area of the body, the head. Though, this tactic failed due to the poorness of range associated with the police handguns and the amount of fire coming from the suspects. The officers were literally pinned down and awaiting more firepower from their backup. Approximately 10 minutes after the incident began, multiple civilians and officers were injured and medical emergency crews could not enter. At this time, news coverage helicopters began to appear and captured the incident on footage. Law enforcement commanders actually used the news coverage helicopters as a tactic, and relayed information from above to police officers caught in the crossfire. Approximately 18 minutes after the incident began, SWAT teams approached the scene and the tactic was to engage the suspects and get the wounded out of harms way. Law enforcement officials used an armored truck and attempted to extract wounded officers and civilians.
Police Tactics Used Part 2
At approximately 9:52 AM, both of the suspects attempted to flee the scene by commandeering a vehicle outside of the bank and driving it slowly, while the other suspect took cover behind it and fired at officers. At this time, officers had equipped themselves with more firepower and ammunition from gun stores nearby. As the suspects furthered themselves from the bank, officers closely followed and engaged with more powerful firepower(AR-15s). Additionally, police officers and SWAT entered the bank and began to secure the original scene. As the suspects continued to drive and shoot on residential streets, officers fired and hit one of the suspects multiple times and he separated from his partner inside of the car. Using the seperation of the suspects at their advantage, police officers concentrated their fire on the fleeing suspect, and as the suspects assault rifle jammed, he was shot and killed. Officers then concentrated their fire on the tires of the felling suspect's vehicle and shot out the tires. The suspect then attempted to commandeer another civilian vehicle, however the vehicle would not start and officers engaged in gunfire with the suspect and shot him in an unprotected area in the lower leg. The suspect then gave up and died within minutes due to over 20 gun shot wounds to his legs.
Aftermath of the Incident and the Effect it had on Patrol Procedures, Weapons and Tactics
Due to the ineffectiveness of the Beretta 9mm and .38 special handguns in this incident, police officers were introduced to the AR-15 assault rifle in their arsenals.
The idea behind this concept was to "level the playing field" as the rifle had great accuracy and a high caliber magazine. Additionally, it would allow an officer to engage a threat at long distance and the rounds can penetrate the majority of body armor today. Most officers also found the AR-15 to be easier to handle than the 12 gauge shotgun.
North Hollywood Shootout, February 28th, 1997, Los Angeles, CA
$900-$1200 on various seller websites
Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator
-Converted Fully Automatic
-$1,249.99 at Cabellas
-30 round magazine
Norinco Type 56 assault rifle
-Converted fully automatic with drum magazine
Tactical Approach Ideas?
Improved Tactical Training
With the arrival of the AR-15 Assault Rifle in police arsenals, the tactical approach needed to change in law enforcement. Thus, the tactical concept of "shooting, moving and communicating" came into play. This tactical procedure enhanced the patrol officer's ability to "stand their ground" during a gun battle rather than relying on a swat team response
Shoot and hit the suspect to neutralize the threat. If you find yourself in a gunfight with only your pistol and you are facing a suspect with a superior weapon to yours, you should use your pistol to fight your way back to your rifle in your patrol car.
Maneuver to a location with concealment or cover, where you have a tactical advantage in a gun fight. Examples include concrete walls, pillars, rocks, or anything that can break or completely destroy a bullet or weapon. Concealment examples include grass, wooded terrain, or any location where you cannot be seen by the suspect
Patrol must communicate with each other and be able to call in necessary supporting fires/backup. In the Hollywood Shootout, a more reliable and quicker communication program would have sent SWAT teams to the incident during the time of the attack rather than have local law enforcement patrol combat the suspect's automatic and powerful assault weapons.
Tactical Items Offered at the Time of the Incident
Tear gas affects the corneal nerves of the target's eyes and causes pain, tears, vomiting and with high exposure, blindness.
Why it did not work: The suspects were actively moving and firing automatic weapons on officers. The suspects also wore masks that covered the entire face and officers could only respond by firing their own weapons. There was no time to disperse tear gas at the suspects and the effect would have been minimal.
K-9 Tactical Approach
Another approach considered at the time of the incident was the use of K-9s to subdue the suspects. This tactical approach was not used due to the extreme danger of the threat. The suspects high powered automatic weapons would pose too much of a risk for a k-9 to successfully capture the suspect.
Crisis Negotiation Team Tactical Idea
At the time of the incident, multiple hostage negotiation teams were dispatched from various agencies since a bank heist was in progress. Though, after patrol officers confronted the suspects, a gunfight was immediately committed and the suspects were on the move. The suspects motive was to shoot anybody in the way of their escape plan. Law enforcement needed more personnel and more powerful firepower to combat the suspects. It was literally a war in progress.
Aftermath: Change in SWAT Arsenal
At the time of the incident, Los Angeles SWAT officers were mostly armed with sub machine guns that fired pistol cartridges due to the majority of past combat experiences in close quarters. Since the North Hollywood Shootout was not close quarter combat and the suspects wore body armor that left only their heads uncovered, the need for accurate assault rifles was a must. After the incident, the LAPD SWAT team was granted M-16s and Ar-15s by the Department of Defense to carry in their arsenals.
Aftermath of the Incident: Department of Defense Surplus of Weaponry for LAPD:
A few months after the North Hollywood Shootout, the Department of Defense issued approximately 600 M-16 and AR-15 rifles to the LAPD. As a result of this, it is considered a standard for every patrol car to be equipped with an AR-15 rifle. Additionally, the Department of Defense issued .45 ACP Caliber semi automatic handguns to each patrol officer to use as their side arm. These handguns consisted of the Smith and Wesson Model 4566 and 4506. At the time of the incident only SWAT officers were allowed to carry .45 ACP Caliber semi automatic handguns.
Aftermath of the Incident: Bullet resistant Police car doors:
After both suspects were neutralized and the crime scene was being investigated, there were 33 damaged police cars outside the bank. During the investigation process, one of the officers said he was struck twice in the leg while attempting to exit his police vehicle. As a result of the damage to the vehicles caused by bullets, the LAPD implemented bullet resistant Kevlar plates in every squad cars door.
Bullet resistant doors-
Aftermath of the Incident: The need for emergency medical kits in law enforcement:
After the incident, reports showed that 6 civilians and 10 police officers had been injured in the gun fight. These injuries ranged from graze wounds to gun shot wounds to the head, leg, chest and arms. Though no one was killed in the gunfight except the suspects, the need for medical assistance was not granted in the majority of the injuries since medical staff was vulnerable at the time of the incident. If police officers had been equipped with medical kits and training, the severity and life changing effects of some of these injuries could have been prevented. The majority of LAPD patrol officers now carry some kind of medical kit and have gone through medical training.