The North Hollywood Shootout – Throughout the bulk of the 19th and 20th centuries, the crime of bank robbery was a persistent threat. From Jesse James to Baby Face Nelson, there is no shortage of infamous bank robbers. But in terms of carnage, few come close to the bank robbery carried out by two men named Larry Phillips Jr. and Decebal Mătăsăreanu.
These two men were the masterminds behind a series of armed heists and bank robberies that, during a Bank of America robbery in 1997, culminated in the North Hollywood Shootout. This 44-minute gun battle effectively turned Los Angeles into a warzone.
”The North Hollywood Shootout is considered one of the bloodiest shootouts in the history of the United States police force.”– The Crime Museum
In the latest Angry Warlord article, we’re going to cover this jaw-dropping shootout, the men who carried it out, along with eleven insane facts about the entire incident. Strap yourselves in, this is one of the craziest real-life bank robberies you’ll ever read.
What Was The North Hollywood Shootout?
The North Hollywood Shootout took place on the morning of February 28th, 1997. The men behind the heist were experienced criminals whose crime career reached its peak at a series of successful bank robberies and heists. Their target on this day was the Bank of America in North Hollywood.
Prior to the North Hollywood Shootout, the men’s operations had been largely successful. As proficient gun enthusiasts, their robberies featured a range of modified, high power weaponry loaded with armor piercing rounds. They were also kitted out in high grade body armor, but more about that later.
This robbery was supposed to go off like any other: strategically planned beforehand, quick, and successful. However, unknown to the two heavily armed and armored robbers at the time, they had been spotted walking into the bank by a passing LAPD patrol who quickly radioed it in and surrounded the Bank of America branch.
After emptying the bank vault, the men walked out to be greeted by a small army of cops waiting for them. Rather than the traditional method of taking hostages and making demands, the men decided to wage a chaotic gun battle with the LAPD. But the cops, packing just 9mm pistols and shotguns, were outgunned and out armored.
In 40 pounds of body armor each, the men were almost immune to everything thrown at them. The LAPD watched in horror as their rounds deflected off the masked men who were only too keen on returning the thousands of rounds from the multiple weapons they had brought with them.
After 44 minutes and Los Angeles turned into a warzone, both robbers lay dead. One had shot himself whilst the other had been arrested before bleeding to death. Following the shootout, police departments across the U.S. and abroad changed how they armed their officers to ensure they would not be outgunned in such a way again.
Incredibly, despite the sheer number of rounds being fired at police, news crews, civilians, and even news helicopters, the two bank robbers were the only people killed. Twelve police officers and eight civilians were seriously injured in the North Hollywood shootout.
10 Insane Facts About the North Hollywood Shootout
So, we’ve covered the gist of the 1997 Hollywood bank robbery, but there is a lot more to this California shootout. So welcome to the juicy part of our article and prepare to get acquainted with 10 insane facts about the Bank of America shootout!
Emil Matasareanu Was a Refugee From Communist Romania
Mătăsăreanu was born in 1966 in the city of Timișoara, Romania. At the time, Romania was under a Communist reign of terror. Mătăsăreanu’s parents were said to be political dissidents. Which was an extremely dangerous choice in Communist Romania.
When the situation in Romania became increasingly hostile as a result of the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Mătăsăreanu and his family managed to flee and make it to America. Eventually, they settled in Los Angeles.
Following the collapse of Communist Romania and the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Mătăsăreanu ended up returning to Romania briefly in 1993. The aim of the trip was to bring his grandmother to the U.S. but he ended up coming back with two passengers as whilst there he met his future wife whom he would go on to have a son with back home.
Larry Phillips Jr Hated Cops From a Young Age
A life of crime was nothing new to Larry Phillips Jr. He was born to Larry Phillips Sr. and Dorothy Clay, both of whom were career criminals often on the run from the law. It was not uncommon for Larry Phillips Jr to see his father being arrested by the police regularly.
When not in prison, his father played an active role in his life. He began his love of firearms by bringing him to gun ranges. On hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains, his father would tell him about his hatred of the police. This is said to be a big factor in Larry Phillips Jr’s future and subsequent hatred of the law.
The North Hollywood Bank Robbers Met at Gold’s Gym
Yep, that’s right. There two infamous bank robbers met at the same gym made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Alongside firearms, both Phillips and Mătăsăreanu had intensive interest in bodybuilding. The pair met at Gold’s Gym in 1989 and quickly became fast friends and criminal partners due to their mutual interests.
“Phillips eventually took up a hobby of bodybuilding, planning to become “the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno”.– Criminal Minds
In the early 1990s, when Phillips went on the run following a real estate scam he was running in Colorado, Mătăsăreanu took him in at his place. Shortly after, the pair would begin traveling together. Including a visit to Mătăsăreanu’s homeland of post-Communist Romania.
The North Hollywood Shootout Weapons
During the 44 minutes bank robbery, the two robbers were packing some serious heat. The men were armed with various automatic rifles and automatic pistols as they unleashed carnage on the LAPD. The most prominent North Hollywood Shootout Weapons were:
- An illegally converted Bushmaster XM-15. This weapon had been modified to be able to fire fully automatic and was fitted with two 100-round Magazines known as the Beta C-Mag that was patented in 1987.
- The men were armed with a fairly rare, West German Heckler & Koch HK-91 semi-automatic rifle along with multiple 30-round magazines. Less than 400 of these rifles were produced.
- Their arsenal also comrpised of three variants of civilian-model Kalashnikov style rifles. All of these weapons had been illegally modified to fire fully automatic. They were also loaded with 75 and 100 round drum magazines. The weapon was seen multiple times in footage of the shootout.
- And finally, the North Hollywood Shotout weapons also included the Beretta 92FS Inox with multiple magazines. Essentially a chromed version of the standard U.S. military sidearm of the time. it’s one of the most photogenic handguns ever produced.
Following the event, various media outlets attempted to claim that Larry Phillips Jr had bought two of the Kalashnikovs legally before converting them. But due to being a convict with serious criminal history under his belt, it was impossible for him to legally buy guns.
The North Hollywood Shootout Armor
The most recognizable images of the men is their huge amount of body armor being worn by both. This body armor served to protect almost all of the vital organs bar the head. Thus, 9mm rounds and shotgun blasts fired by the police initially failed to have any effect.
Although the police knew they could be stopped with a headshot, they were unable to deliver accurate fire due to the insane amount of rounds being laid down by the robbers. Eventually, LAPD officers raided a nearby gun store to gain a firepower advantage over their adversaries.
There’s Even a North Hollywood Shootout Museum!
The Batlle of North Hollywood earned a place in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department. A year after the incedent, 18 LAPD officers who took part in the shootout were awarded the Medal of Valor by President Clinton.
Seven years after the Battle of North Hollywood, the LAPD museum launched a dedicated exhibit to the incident. It demonstrated the original armor, clothes, weapons, and vehicles used by the men alongside various other artifacts from that fateful day.
Megadeth Released a Song About the North Hollywood Shootout
When Megadeth released their album ”Endgame” it featured a track named ”44 Minutes”. This song was dedicated to the North Hollywood Shootout and features real LAPD radio transmissions from the shootout.
Interestingly, the Endgame album itself is 44 minutes long and the opening guitar riff sounds eerily like the burst of an AK-47. It is a criminally underrated song of Megadeth and many are unaware of the story that lies behind it.
Of course, There’s also a North Hollywood Shootout Movie
In 2003, Yves Simoneau released a TV movie about the incident called 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out. It starred Michael Madsen and used the same residential LA streets that the bank robbers used to stage their shootout with LAPD.
During the closing credits of the movie, the director chose to show real-life footage of the LAPD officers who took part in the shootout receiving their valor medals and meeting Bill Clinton.
Almost 2,000 Rounds Were Fired During the Battle of North Hollywood
Packing a lethal arsenal of weapons and a trunk full of ammo to go with it, by the end of the Battle of North Hollywood the bank robbers had fired 1,100 rounds from various weapons.
Additionally, the LAPD had returned fire at the bank robbers with around 650 rounds. Making the total number of rounds fired during the 44 minute bank robbery 1,750. That’s around one round fired every two seconds. Wild!
Which is the Best North Hollywood Shootout Documentary
Such an insane bank robbery like the North Hollywood bank robbery naturally has a slew of documentaries made about it. The first North Hollywood Shootout documentary was a TV show called “Shootout,” which aired in the mid-2000s on the History Network.
For real, bullet-riddled footage of the North Hollywood bank shootout, this is the go-to documentary. The second is a dedicated episode of Count Dankula’s Absolute Madlads which covers the infamous LA Bank Heist in full detail. It also provides some interesting anecdotes about the two North Hollywood bank robbers.
The Robbers were shot 40 times during the 44 minutes bank robbery
As a result of the extensive body armor the two bank robbers were wearing, the men sustained a combined number of 40 gunshots during the 44 minutes bank robbery. Mătăsăreanu, due to a metal trauma plate he had fitted to his body armor, even managed to shake off a direct hit from an AR-15 fired by a SWAT team member in the later stage of the shootout.
”Realizing how badly they were outgunned, some of the officers got rifles at nearby gun stores.”– NBC Los Angeles
By the end of the shootout, Larry Phillips Jr had been shot eleven times including the self-inflicted gunshot to the head that killed him. Mătăsăreanu had taken 29 bullets to the legs when officers unleashed a hail of bullets underneath a car he was sheltering behind. Two bullet wounds in his thigh led to significant blood loss that eventually killed him.
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The Aftermath of the Battle of North Hollywood
Naturally, such a chaotic event comes with an aftermath. The lack of firepower carried by the LAPD at the time was abolished. LAPD vehicles were subsequently equipped with AR15s and armor plating as standard. 9mm sidearms were also replaced with .45 ACP caliber.
In the year 2000, the Mătăsăreanu’s hired the controversial lawyer Stephen Yagman to sue the LAPD. They claimed that they had allowed Mătăsăreanu to die and thus violented his civil rights. However, when they were threatened with being charged with malicious prosecution, the Mătăsăreanu family dropped the case.
Prove it, Warlord! (Sources)