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) on February 28, 1997. For over 44 minutes in a futile attempt at escape, the two men held off police and terrified a neighborhood with automatic gunfire, all caught live on TV. Both robbers were killed, 12 police officers and eight other civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and other property were damaged or destroyed.
Phillips and Mătăsăreanu carried modified AK-47 rifles and AR-15 style assault rifles. Each man carried hundreds of bullets, and there was more ammo stored in the white 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity, parked outside the bank. LAPD officers carried only 9mm handguns and .38 calibre pistols. Several officers also appropriated AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles from a nearby firearms dealer. The robbers wore heavy plated body armor which successfully protected them from handgun rounds and shotgun pellets fired by the responding officers.
At 9:17 am, Phillips and Mătăsăreanu entered and robbed Bank of America’s North Hollywood branch on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. 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 exchange shots with the officers.
Phillips walked down Archwood Street, took cover behind a truck and continued to fire his rifle at police until it jammed. At that point he pulled out his Berretta M9FS handgun to continue his shootout with the police. Tried to flee the scene but was shot multiple times. Phillips realized there was no hope left for him, he took his Berretta to his chin and shot himself. Mătăsăreanu was killed by police SWAT team three blocks away.
Due to the large number of injuries, rounds fired, weapons used, and overall length of the shootout, it is regarded as one of the most intense gun battles in U.S. police history. Combined, the two men had fired approximately 1,100 rounds in total, while approximately 700 rounds were fired by police. Another estimate is that a total of nearly 2,000 rounds were fired.
Featured Image: Mătăsăreanu inside the getaway vehicle, Phillips walking alongside the vehicle / Image: by Mike Meadows