While I was in Los Angeles, I was invited to tour a number of facilities related to local law enforcement agencies. One of the locations was a converted police station that now houses local law enforcement memorabilia. One of the most stark displays at the location was the one that depicted the North Hollywood bank robbery on February 28, 1997. By the time the gunfight was over, two heavily armed suspects who used body armor and automatic weapons were shot and killed but not before they wounded 15 people, including 10 police officers. To view a short film clip from CNN, click here
. To view the CNN article in its entirety, click here
If you check the video clip and companion article, pay close attention to the white four-door General Motors product car. I'll show you a closeup of the photo later on.
If you would like to hear a clip from the actual radio dispatch, click here to go that that location
If you are interested in a timeline of events involving the robbery, click here.
If you listen to the section of the dispatch radio traffic posted above, you will be struck by the calm demeanor by the officers and dispatchers despite the fact they are taking fire and their associates are being shot.
It is also clear that the police were out-gunned.
I was able to view the vast amount of ammunition and automatic weapons the two bank robbers possessed both on their person but also in their vehicle. It was also explained to me that they wore heavy duty bullet resistant vests similar to what police officers wear. The photographs of the spent shell casings at the location were quite vivid.
What was equally impressive was the fact that the officers didn't back down but remained to draw the fire to protect people in the area and to contain the suspects to prevent their escape. The officers did their jobs well, no one died other than the robbery suspects.
I was also impressed with the skill that crime scene technicians used to reconstruct the scene to determine just what had happened. In looking at some of the crime scene photos and accounts, I was impressed with the methodical process that was used through photography and forensics. This was a large area and shell casings, weapons, clothing and other items had to be collected, documented, and photographed.
If you have an interest in crime scene photography and/or history of investigations, you might be interested in a book recently published entitled Scene of the crime: photographs from the LAPD archive
/ introduction by James Elroy, essay By Tim B. Winde. For you book type folks, the ISBN number is 0-8109-5002-2. You can also learn more about LAPD history by going to www.lapdonline.com
Ok, so back to the bank robbery. Remember the picture of the white vehicle I told you to pay attention to? I got a closeup of it. It's posted below.
You have to look very close but you will see numerous shot or bullet markings on the vehicle, especially in the windshield. If you recall the vehicle in the news photos, the trunk lid was up. The photo I took of the trunk deck didn't come out well because of the lighting but there are almost as many holes in the trunk deck as there in the windshield.
These photos are one of the squads that was at the scene as well. Note the size of the holes in the vehicle.
The tires had been replaced but I viewed what was left of them. Many holes in the tires, rims and if you could see the interior of the vehicle, bullet holes through the seats, headreasts, door panels and most of the interior.
These vehicles serve as a vivid reminder of the unpredictable hazards of police work. If you spoke to most of the officers who responded to the alarm that day, I'm sure they would have told you they didn't expect this. Yet, their training, courage, and dedication came through that day.
This incident was a wakeup call for law enforcement agencies throughout the country. It was probably one of the first incidents where criminals used serious assault-type weapons and armor against civilian police. One can only speculate where and how the multiple assault weapons were obtained by the two suspects.
I should probably qualify the fact that I will not provide the names of the robbery suspects. Their deeds do not warrant disclosure or reconition of what they did that day.
As much discussion that is given to concerns of terrorists acts, I would submit to you that U.S. law enforcement officers have been dealing with terrorists of one sort of another for quite some time. For the most part, thanks to the dedication of the fine men and women involved with law enforcement, we can continue to enjoy a level of safety without sacrificing freedom not often found anyplace else in the world.
I hoped you found the history of this particular incident interesting.