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North Hollywood Shootout

At 9:15 a.m. that morning Phillips and Matasareanu robbed the Bank of America branch office in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

They were armed with illegally-owned and illegally modified assault rifles and wore body armor covering their torsos, as well as home-made Kevlar protection wrapped around their arms and legs. The pair emerged from the bank and encountered responding LAPD patrol officers, and the firefight began.

After five minutes, three civilians and nine police officers had been wounded, and a TAC (tactical) alert was issued. Ultimately, 370 LAPD officers, including SWAT team members, were present at the scene. The suspects fired approximately 1,500 rounds of ammunition in one of the most violent shootouts in U.S. law enforcement history.

Weapons

LAPD patrol officers and detective
  • Beretta 92FS 9mm pistols
  • .38 Special revolvers
  • Remington and Ithaca 12-gauge pump-action shotguns
LAPD SWAT
  • Colt M16A2 rifles
  • Colt XM177E2 carbines
Bank Robbers
  • 3 AKM rifles
  • 1 G3A3 rifle
  • 1 M16A1 rifle with 100 round C-Mag
  • Beretta 92F pistol
Outcome
  • Larry Phillips was shot 11 times
  • Emil Matasareanu was shot 29 times.
  • Both Phillips and Matasareanu were weightlifters.
  • Total amount stolen: USD $303,305.
  • Approximately 370 LAPD officers were called to the scene.
Other than the LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and units of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) responded to the scene. In the MVP documentary film, the LAPD sergeant being interviewed discusses the roles of those agencies as well as LA Airport PD, Burbank PD and LA School PD. Off-duty LAPD officers came in prior to the announcement of city-wide TAC-ALERT, which activates all personnel on duty. Members of the LAPD training at the Valley area police academy as well as the main LA police academy located in Elysian Park also responded. SWAT officers also responded from the police academy. One response was from Chief Willie Williams, who came from either Parker Center or LAPD HQ located downtown.

The following year, seventeen LAPD officers were awarded Medals of Valor from the department for their actions and bravery during the shootout.

They were:
  • Police Sergeant I. Medina
  • Police Detective T. Angeles
  • Police Detective V. Bancroft
  • Police Detective T. Culotta
  • Police Detective K. Harley
  • Police Officer Class III D. Anderson
  • Police Officer E. Brentlinger
  • Police Officer Class III A. Cabunoc
  • Police Officer Class III J. Caprarelli
  • Police Officer E. Dominguez
  • Police Officer Class III S. Gomez
  • Police Officer Class III R. Massa
  • Police Officer C. Perriguey
  • Police Officer T. Schmitz
  • Police Officer C. Torrez
  • Police Officer J. Zboravan
  • Police Officer R. Zielinski
Aftermath

The incident highlighted the growing divergence between the means available to the police and the offensive and defensive technologies employed by criminals. Video footage of the incident clearly shows police pistol bullets striking the suspects with little or no effect, largely due to the body armor worn by the suspects. Their body armor was able to stop the .38 caliber and 9mm projectiles fired by the officers' service handguns.

The ineffectiveness of the pistol rounds in penetrating the suspects' body armor led to a trend in the United States towards arming selected police patrol officers with .223 caliber/5.56mm M16 Rifles altered to prevent automatic fire. This provided first responders with greater ability to effectively confront and neutralize heavily armed and armored criminals.

Advocates of gun control in the United States cited the incident as evidence that U.S. gun control laws were inadequate to prevent military-class weaponry ending up in the hands of prior felons. They argue that without adequate gun regulation there is no gun enforcement, leading to easier access by criminals.

They further argue that weapons move with money; and that without any deterrence against gun manufacturers and distributors, simple economics dictates that guns will be supplied to those with a demand for them, including those who wish to use them illegally, ultimately giving criminals an advantage over law enforcement in the street arms race.

The LAPD patrol officers were not adequately armed or protected to deal with such criminals. The gunmen were firing rifle rounds from illegally-modified fully-automatic assault rifles while being protected by full body armor. The officers' handguns and shotguns could not penetrate through the suspects' armor, while the suspects' weapons were capable of severely wounding officers and bystanders even through cement walls and automobiles.

Opponents of gun control counter that as the weapons had been obtained illegally; the incident did not indicate that criminal use of legally registered fully-automatic firearms was a problem. To date there has been no recorded commission of a crime with a legally-registered fully automatic firearm by the legal owner although a few stolen weapons have been used by criminals. They also point out that during the shootout, LAPD patrol officers acquired more powerful rifles and shotgun ammunition from a nearby gun shop, which had the potential to penetrate body armor or at least fracture bones through armor. The borrowed weapons and ammunition were never deployed, as SWAT had arrived on the scene first.

In addition, the opponents of gun control argue that more and stricter gun control laws are not required, as these would mostly affect law-abiding citizens without reducing the illegal use of firearms by criminals (who, by definition, do not obey the law.) They state that what is required is more stringent enforcement of existing laws against possession of firearms by criminals. Also of note is that the incident happened during the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (since expired), which to some opponents of gun control, is further proof that such bans don't work and instead show inherent flaws in gun control.

Movies

44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out at The Internet Movie Database
2005 documentary Shootout! North Hollywood Shootout created by the History Channel describing the event in detail with interviews from the involved police officers.

North Hollywood Shootout documentary by Music Video Productions (MVP) (mostly interviews).

In the opening scenes of the action film S.W.A.T.. Weapons, location, events, TV footage, and dialog from LAPD radio communcations of this shootout were all closely mimicked. (A deleted scene in the movie also included police officers running into a gun store to purchase M16 assault rifles citing the ineffective weaponry they had been supplied).

A video was produced by the POST training association that contained the entire video of the shootout; however this video is not available to the public.

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