Norco 80

In May of 1980, the sleepy streets of Norco, California were turned into an all-out war zone in what was one of the most violent bank robberies in American history. From LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios comes the new podcast—Norco ’80 based on the book by Peter Houlahan. Listen as host and producer Antonia Cereijido tells the unbelievable true story about God, guns, survivalism and the bank robbery that changed policing in America forever. Using eyewitness testimony and never before heard police tapes, Norco 80 takes listeners on a wild ride, and serves as a cautionary tale in the context of America being immersed in the middle of an economic crisis, revamped end of the world paranoia and a complex conversation about policing.

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EPISODE 4Chapter 4: The Final Chase
The robbers lead police on a winding chase that ends in a devastating standoff at the top of a mountain.
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Chapter 4: The Final Chase
A quick warning: Some of the series includes descriptions of graphic violence.
LAST WEEK ON NORCO 80:

Rosie:When we were young, he told me that he had to do something. And that was to kill somebody. He wanted to know what it felt like.

Lani:They were digging a tunnel for the purpose of if a bomb hits or something...Yeah! They would talk about stuff like that! They would talk about how it’s coming to an end.

Part 1

DEPUTY ROLF PARKES WAS JUST OVER TEN MILES AWAY FROM NORCO ON MAY 9TH 1980, WHEN HE HEARD A RADIO BROADCAST ABOUT ARMED ROBBERS LEAVING A NORCO BANK SHOOTOUT.

Rolf: Yeah I had just made a car stop on somebody and I was about to issue a ticket. And I hear this stuff going on and you get that chill. I mean, it’s that that chill, it runs down your arms.

ROLF RACED TO BACKUP HIS FELLOW OFFICERS, HE WAS ONE OF AT LEAST A DOZEN COPS ON THE RADIO CHANNEL.

Radio Traffic:Quit yelling! Calm down! Where they going?

Rolf:So I'm trying to listen without saying anything on the air and you hear a lot of other people talking, I'm en route. I'm out. I'm over here. I’m over there.

Radio Traffic:Riverside I believe I counted at least five suspects I believe three got away in the yellow truck.

[MUSIC]

SOON IT BECAME CLEAR THAT THE ROBBERS WERE HEADED NORTHEAST, INTO A MAZE OF SUBURBS, AS THEY TRIED TO FLEE.

Rolf: There was no freeway that ran through Norco. So to be in, like, the center of town and having to get out wasn't really a good plan on their part to escape.

THERE WOULD BE NO EASY EXIT FOR THE ROBBERS. THERE WAS A COP WAITING AROUND ALMOST EVERY CORNER.

Radio Traffic: I’ve been hit in the leg
Shooting from the back of the truck. I’m headed for the hospital!

ROLF HEARD MEN YELLING ABOUT BEING HIT IN THE LEG AND HEADING TO THE HOSPITAL.

DEPUTY AFTER DEPUTY JUST MINUTES APART WERE REPORTING THAT THE ROBBERS WERE NOT JUST SPEEDING AWAY. THEY WERE ALSO SPRAYING BULLETS, WILDLY, FROM THE BACK OF THE PICK-UP AT ANYONE WHO APPROACHED.

Radio Traffic:The vehicle is headed on Schleismen towards Etiwanda. I’m being hit by fire.

ROLF KEPT WINDING CLOSER AND CLOSER, FOLLOWING THE RADIO TRAFFIC, UNTIL, HE DIDN’T NEED TO ANYMORE. THE ROBBERS WERE HEADED RIGHT TOWARDS HIM

ROLF:I can hear the gunfire. And I know there's no one else between me and them at the time.

Rolf: I'm on a semi country road. I've got a horse corral on my right. And the suspects are coming down the road. I first see this thing, it wasn't exactly yellow, it's kind of like orange. I can see that it's crossing lanes coming into my lane of traffic. And I knew this wasn't good.

ROLF SAW THE ROBBERS, TWO OF THEM STANDING IN THE BED OF THE TRUCK, ONE OF THEM LEANING OUTSIDE THE PASSENGER WINDOW. THEY RAISED THEIR GUNS, LEVELING THEM AT HIM. THE TRUCK, MOVING SURPRISINGLY SLOWLY, ROLLED TOWARD HIM.

ROLF ROLLED UP HIS SIDE WINDOW AS A LAST FUTILE MOVE.

Rolf: As the vehicle comes, I mean, like, my car is just getting chewed. You can hear the metal, the boom, boom, boom, you know, hitting, hitting the side of the car. You can hear the sound of a snapping, hitting, hitting the ground around you. You know, I'm sitting there and there's glass flying all over the all over the cab. The shards of glass had, had flaked into, really a dust and it’s landing all over my face. And there's a certain phenomena that just seem kind of strange because I'm sitting here, it looks like it's snowing inside my car, you know.

THEME MUSIC

I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND FROM LAIST STUDIOS AND FUTURO STUDIOS THIS IS NORCO80, A SERIES ABOUT GOD, GUNS, SURVIVALISM AND THE BANK ROBBERY THAT CHANGED POLICING FOREVER.

CHAPTER 4: THE FINAL CHASE

George: What we're tryin' to do is hit the engines on the police vehicles to stop 'em.
Detective: Uh huh.
George: To stop police vehicle. I wasn't tryin' to kill people.

THEME OUT

AFTER THEY LEFT THE BANK, THE ROBBERS’ ESCAPE PLAN WAS TO REACH THEIR GETAWAY CARS. THEY HAD SET THEM UP BEFORE THE ROBBERY IN A PARKING LOT OF A LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD ABOUT A MILE AWAY.

GEORGE WOULD LATER TELL THE DETECTIVE ABOUT THEIR EXIT.

AND JUST A REMINDER — THESE ARE THE ACTUAL RECORDINGS THAT POLICE MADE QUESTIONING THE ROBBERS RIGHT AFTER THE ROBBERY.

Detective:You got in a truck all of yo? Who got in the cab of the truck?
George: Chris drove.
Detective: Chris drove?

George:And the three of us uh Manny, Russ and myself defended the - the vehicle.

CHRIS HARVEN DROVE THE YELLOW TRUCK, WITH MANNY IN THE PASSENGER SEAT, AND RUSS AND GEORGE STANDING IN THE BED. THE HOPE WAS THAT IF THEY COULD DITCH THE STOLEN TRUCK FOR THEIR OWN CARS - THEY COULD LOSE THE COPS.

BUT AS THEY APPROACHED THE LOT - THE MONEY LONG GONE - THEY COULD SEE POLICE CARS IN THEIR PERIPHERY AND REALIZED THEY HAD TO CHANGE COURSE.

AND SO - AS THEY DROVE THROUGH THE SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS OF NORCO - THEY TRIED TO COME UP WITH A NEW PLAN.

Detective:What were you thinking about while all this was going on?

A DETECTIVE WOULD LATER ASK - WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH CHRIS’S MIND?

Chris:While this was going on? Getting away, getting away. Wishing I hadn’t done the job.

CHRIS RESPONDED ‘GETTING AWAY. WISHING I HADN’T DONE THE JOB.’ BUT AT THAT POINT, WHILE THEY WERE DESPERATELY TRYING TO ESCAPE, THEY HAD NO PLANS TO SURRENDER

Chris: George’s motto is- I’m not going to be taken prisoner, right.

CHRIS SAID GEORGE’S MOTTO WAS THAT HE WASN’T GOING TO BE TAKEN PRISONER.

MUSIC

A FEW SECONDS AFTER THE GLASS AND THE DUST FELL AROUND DEPUTY ROLF PARKES, THE ROBBERS WERE GONE. THEY HAD PASSED HIM.

Rolf: I’m checking my head you know to see whether I was bleeding or how bad I was. I could see that I had some blood.

A BULLET GRAZED HIS HEAD. AND HE HAD BEEN SPRAYED WITH BROKEN GLASS BUT SOMEHOW ROLF DIDN’T HAVE ANY MAJOR DAMAGE. AND AS HE ASSESSED HIMSELF, HE DIDN’T HESITATE IN HIS NEXT MOVE.

Rolf: That fear kind of changed to anger. I was pissed, can I say that you know? I was pissed. And so I make the u-turn.

HE PUT HIS WRECK OF A CAR INTO DRIVE AND SPED AFTER THE YELLOW TRUCK.

Rolf: As soon as I got around the corner there they are just blasting away at me just boom. They are just hitting the crap out of me and I’m not even near them now. They’re fifty to a hundred yards down the road. So I get on the air and I say I’m following the suspects and they are armed with rifles and they’re using them. And these guys are just pounding me, they’re still pounding me and they’re just shooting shooting shooting.

ROLFE TRIED TO WARN ANY OFFICERS AHEAD OF HIM OF THE FIREPOWER HE HAD JUST WITNESSED. BUT COMMUNICATION WAS JUMBLED ON THE RADIO.

[RADIO TRAFFIC]

THE ROBBERS WERE FIRING NON-STOP AS THE YELLOW PICKUP TRUCK BLASTED THROUGH A FOUR-WAY INTERSECTION PACKED WITH POLICE CARS.

ROLF: All of a sudden, you know, Herman comes along their side. You could just see as his car just explodes.

Radio Traffic: McDaniels: I’ve been hit. ROLFE:And the glass, flying everywhere. Radio Traffic:​ ​You alright?

Rolf: Dave Madden on the east side they shoot at him. Etiwanda and limonite still firing

     And Wayne McDaniels is on the West side.
     They shoot him through through the windshield and hit him
     in the shoulder.

Radio Traffic: Mad Dog: Deputy Down Etiwanda and 63rd. 11:55 Parkes: They have automatic weapons

Rolf:And so everybody's kind of stalled except for me. IN A MATTER OF SECONDS, TWO OFFICERS AND A CIVILIAN WERE SHOT AS

THE ROBBERS CONTINUED THROUGH THE SUBURBS.

IT WAS A FRIDAY AFTERNOON, THE STREETS WERE FULL OF KIDS WALKING HOME FROM SCHOOL. AS THE TRUCK BARRELLED THROUGH, RESIDENTS AND CHILDREN HID BEHIND PARKED CARS OR RAN TO SAFETY.

Radio Traffic: They’re northbound go go go. Northbound go. AS ROLF TRIED TO FOLLOW, ONCE AGAIN - THE ROBBERS SHOWERED HIM

WITH BULLETS.
THIS TIME, HIS CAR DIED.

Radio Traffic:You got a flat tire Rolf. Music out

BUT SOON ANOTHER DEPUTY PULLED OVER. ROLF GRABBED HIS GUN AND JUMPED IN WITH HIM.

Radio Traffic:Come on.

AT THIS POINT IN THE CHASE, IT WAS ALL HANDS ON DECK. OFFICERS WERE COMING IN TO HELP FROM ALL OVER. THERE WERE PATROL CARS FROM THE RIVERSIDE SHERIFF’S OFFICE, BUT ALSO FROM THE RIVERSIdE POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND FROM THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL.

Radio Traffic: Eastside units at Belgrave and Van Buren.

AS THE ROBBERS IN THE YELLOW TRUCK CONTINUED THEIR SPREE, SHOOTING AND DISABLING ANY POLICE CAR THEY SAW. ONE BULLET VEERED TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD AND CLIPPED THE FINGER OF A KID WHO WAS RIDING A BIKE IN THE DIRT..

Radio Traffic: Patrol was that another officer shot? I am transporting an officer reynard who’s taken a round in the arm to the hospital.

AMBULANCES WERE ON THEIR WAY - AT THIS POINT, A TOTAL OF 7 DEPUTIES WERE WOUNDED.

BUT ROLF AND THE OTHER DEPUTY KEPT ON THE CHASE. THEY’D LOST SIGHT OF THE YELLOW TRUCK.

A POLICE HELICOPTER WAS NOW CIRCLING ABOVE.

Rolf:And starts giving directions. But he doesn't know the area. He just said they're going. They're going left. They're going right they’re going North. So what does that mean? You know, it's like, how does that help you? You know, it doesn't help me if you don't give a name of a street or anything like that. Which way is left? Which way?

     Going in circles trying to figure out where they are, you
     know, cause it was just a fog of battle. It was crazy. I
     mean, the people must have thought we were nuts. We did at
     least two circles

Radio Traffic: The vehicle has just turned Northbound. I believe it’s on Etiwanda at this time, headed Northbound.

FINALLY ROLF STUCK HIS HEAD OUT THE WINDOW AND SPOTTED THE HELICOPTER. FOLLOWING IT - HE HEADED NORTH - TOWARDS THE FREEWAY,

AT THIS POINT, ROLF FIGURED THE ROBBERS HAD A DECISION TO MAKE. THEY COULD TAKE THE FREEWAY BACK TOWARDS RIVERSIDE, WHERE MANY COPS AWAITED THEM. OR THEY COULD HEAD INTO LA

Rolf: Iwas hoping that they were going to go into Los Angeles where the sheriff's were, because I knew that they had a SWAT team. Those were new items at the time.

THE LAPD HAD CREATED THE FIRST SWAT TEAM IN THE COUNTRY, AROUND A DECADE EARLIER. THE GROUP OF SPECIALLY-TRAINED MEN, MANY WITH MILITARY EXPERIENCE, WAS ESTABLISHED AFTER THE WATTS RIOTS. A SERIES OF VIOLENT CONFRONTATIONS BETWEEN POLICE OFFICERS AND LOCAL BLACK RESIDENTS.

THE ROBBERS SURPRISED ROLF WHEN HE REALIZED THEY WEREN’T HEADED WEST TOWARDS LA OR EAST TO RIVERSIDE. AS THE ROBBERS MERGED ONTO INTERSTATE 15, HE SAW THEY WERE HEADED NORTH.

ROLF GOT ON THE RAMP ABOUT A HALF-MILE BEHIND THE YELLOW TRUCK.

Rolf: As soon as we get on the 15, they start shooting at us again, they're hitting the vehicle.

ROLF AND THE OFFICER HE WAS RIDING WITH FRED CHISHOLM WHO WAS DRIVING, NEEDED TO BE CAREFUL. THE WEAPONS THE ROBBERS HAD WERE SO POWERFUL, THAT THEY COULDN’T GET TOO CLOSE.

Rolf:And I told Fred, you know, get behind this 18 wheeler. Maybe they won't shoot at a civilian vehicle.

     Well, they shot at the civilian vehicle and the 18 wheeler
     pulls to the right.
     It's like the curtain opened and there comes the gunshots
     you know, there’s just no relief.

SOME OFFICERS WOULD RECALL BEING ON THE FREEWAY AND HEARING THE SHOTS FALL AROUND THEIR VEHICLES, FROM ALMOST A MILE AWAY.

Radio Traffic: Keep your lights off ahead of 13, that’s the target, be advised. They were firing. I wouldn’t get too close. High powered rifle.

MORE LAW ENFORCEMENT JOINED THE CHASE ON THE FREEWAY - OFFICERS FROM ONTARIO, FONTANA, PERRIS. BUT NOBODY COULD GET TOO CLOSE TO THE YELLOW TRUCK WITHOUT HAVING TO DODGE BULLETS.

Radio Traffic: Keep your lights off, They’ve been firing from a half mile around hitting units. Copy that, we’ll run our lights until we see you then cut them.

Rolf:And it was somewhere around this time that my dispatch asks, can you confirm if a helicopter is being shot out of the sky? I go what? Are you kidding me?

GEORGE WOULD TELL POLICE THAT THEY FELT MAYBE THEY COULD GET AWAY, IF THEY COULD JUST STOP THE HELICOPTER FROM TRACKING THEM

Detective:Where was the helicopter all this time? George:Uh it was uh just watching us.

Detective:Okay. Is this about the same time you guys started shootin' at the helicopter?

George:Yeah. I just figured if we could stop the helicopter, get him away from us, we could get away. Cause we figured that was what was keepin' everybody else hangin' on us. And then we pot-shotted at - the roster, and uh the fuselage. The tail.

     Music cue starts here

THE HELICOPTER, WHICH WAS HOVERING 800 FT OVER THE SUSPECTS, ABRUPTLY VEERED OFF. THE SUSPECTS, POINTING THEIR GUNS SKYWARD, HAD MANAGED TO FRACTURE THE PLEXIGLASS OF THE CHOPPER, AND THE TITANIUM FLOOR. IT WOULD BE FORCED TO LAND.

Rolf:Somebody in the back said, we got to notify Ontario that divert aircraft because, you know, there if they've shot a helicopter, you know, and we're coming into the glide path, they could shoot airliners as well.

THE POLICE WERE WORRIED THAT THE ROBBERS COULD SHOOT PLANES TAKING OFF FROM THE NEARBY ONTARIO AIRPORT. SO THEY SHUT IT DOWN.

IT SEEMED LIKE NO ONE COULD TOUCH THE ROBBERS. THEY HAD DRIVEN OFF A HELICOPTER AND WERE HOLDING OFF DOZENS OF CARS IN PURSUIT.

Rolf:The kinks can’t get any worse can they? Radio Traffic: They got explosives?
Rolf:Oh yes they can.

Radio traffic

ROLF SAW A POP IN THE AIR - AS THE ROBBERS STARTED THROWING BOMBS OUT ON THE ROAD BEHIND THEM. GEORGE WOULD TELL POLICE, HE HAD CARRIED THEM IN HIS POCKET.

George: I had two in my pocket and those are the two I tried to slow down traffic with.
Detective:You only threw two?
George:I threw two.

Rolf:And I realize, you know, at this point there, I've mean, probably the biggest law enforcement chase there ever was. And I'm with the unit in front chasing these guys.

BUT THEN - ROLF’S RIDE GAVE OUT, FOR THE SECOND TIME THAT DAY.

Rolf:Our car has been hit so many times by the rifle fire that our engines started to steam. And you could see that, you know, steam rising up off off of the hood of the car. And the car was starting to buck. And it became obvious that we weren’t going to be able to lead the chase any further.

ROLF SAW THE SUSPECTS TAKE AN OFF RAMP. AND THAT’S WHEN HE REALIZED THEY WERE HEADED INTO THE SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS. TOWARDS LYTLE CREEK CANYON. ROLF KNEW THEN - IT WOULD TAKE SOMETHING VERY POWERFUL TO STOP THEM.

Rolf: It's like we're the police. We don't have rifles. We have shotguns and handguns.

Rolf: We were calling for anything that had a weapon, a rifle or something to, like, intercede.

BEAT

IT TURNS OUT A YOUNG OFFICER, WOULD ANSWER THAT CALL. WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.

PART 2

AT THE TIME OF THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY, OFFICERS WEREN’T USUALLY ARMED BEYOND A HANDGUN AND A SHOTGUN. BUT THAT DA, BY A FLUKE, A NEARBY SHERIFF’S OFFICE DIDHAVE AN AUTOMATIC WEAPON. IN SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, THEY HAD AN M16 IN THEIR EVIDENCE LOCKER.

DJ:We basically just kind of kept it, the department didn’t know we had it. We recovered it after a pursuit and the crooks threw it out the window. It got pretty narfed up. So we called the military and said, hey, we've got your weapon. Do you want it back? It's in pretty bad shape. And they said, no, you keep it.

DEPUTY SHERIFF DANIEL MCCARTY, WHO GOES BY DJ, WAS BACK AT THE SAN BERNARDINO STATION WHEN HE HEARD ABOUT THE BANK ROBBERY AND ONGOING PURSUIT.

DJ:In those days, that was a very, very big deal to have an AR. I mean, we didn't have weapons like that, military weapons.

Music
A FELLOW OFFICER RADIOED INTO THE SAN BERNARDINO STATION

DJ:I'm coming to the office, get the AR out, which means the automatic weapon that we had.

DJ FETCHED IT AND WENT OUTSIDE - READY FOR HIS FELLOW OFFICER WHO SLID INTO THE PARKING LOT IN HIS PATROL CAR.

DJ:An he had reached over and unlatched the passenger door. And while he was still moving, the door flew open and I jumped to the car. I'm twenty three years old, brainless on what really happens in a shootout.

THE ONLY OFFICER IN THE CHASE ARMED WITH AN AUTOMATIC WEAPON WAS NOW MAKING HIS WAY TOWARDS THE SUSPECTS.

Music
DJ, WAS IN HIS EARLY 20S WHEN HE DECIDED TO JOIN THE FORCE.

ASC: And when did you decide that you wanted to join the police?

DJ:‘77 I started getting serious about doing it because I figured, you know, sooner or later I'm going to end up on one side of the bars. So I kind of like the other side.

ASC:Let's unpack that a little. Why did you think that you-

DJ: Because don't get me wrong. I had great parents. I was raised well, but I was a helian. The guys that I ran with, we had a gang. There was several fights between other gang members. And just growing up in general, while San Bernardino was growing up and unfortunately, turning to crime was starting to go downhill.

DJ ENDED UP BECOMING A DEPUTY SHERIFF FOR SAN BERNARDINO - THE COUNTY DIRECTLY NORTH OF RIVERSIDE. IT IS SURROUNDED BY DESERT MOUNTAINS - HOLLYWOOD USED IT AS A BACKDROP FOR 60’S WESTERN. IT’S A PLACE WHERE DJ FIT RIGHT IN

ASC: What did you look like during that time? DJ: Glen Campbell.

ASC:OK, for those unfamiliar with Glen Campbell, describe him.

DJ: Well, Glen Campbell was a country western singer. Rhinestone cowboy

DJ: Had that boyish look with the regular haircut parted on the side, I look like a little kid. A big little kid.

BUT BACK THEN DJ THOUGHT HE WAS A REAL TOUGH GUY.

DJ: Ithought I looked like Dirty Harry, are you kidding? I was 23 years old and happy and having a great time.

DJ WAS ASSIGNED TO WORK IN FONTANA, A TOUGH CITY THAT WAS BUILT AROUND A STEEL MILL. WORKING THAT BEAT BROUGHT DJ THE SAME SENSE OF EXCITEMENT FROM HIS HELLION DAYS

DJ: Fontana never sleeps. It's a steel town. It's 24 hours trucking industry, 24 hours prostitution, drug sales, 24 hours. It never stopped.

BUT WORKING AS A POLICE OFFICER ALSO GAVE HIM A SENSE OF STABILITY

DJ: When I got hired, they said okay we’re going to pay you. I think it was six hundred dollars every two weeks. And I went, you're going to pay me six hundred dollars every two weeks. Yes. And I got to go start in the jail. Yeah. And you're going to feed me in the jail. Yeah. Antonia, I was in heaven.

Music
DJ HAD TO BE DRAGGED AWAY FROM POLICE WORK

DJ: There was times when there was several of us that were young and energetic, and they would literally the sergeant would literally have to tell us the 12 o'clock on your shift was over at one o'clock, bring the cars back. Graveyard's waiting to go to work.

DJ HAD BEEN RELUCTANTLY FINISHING UP A DAY TIME SHIFT AND CHANGING INTO HIS STREET CLOTHES AROUND 4PM WHEN HE HEARD THE RADIO TRAFFIC AND THEN JUMPED INTO HIS FELLOW OFFICER’S CAR.

Radio Traffic: 321 advise how many units you request from PD...[unintelligible] We need the highway blocked [request about 5 units]

THE FOUR SUSPECTS WERE ON THE HIGHWAY HEADED NORTHBOUND.
DJ HAD THE RIFLE BETWEEN HIS KNEES AS HE JOINED THE CHASE AT 80 MPH

DJ:I had it between my legs on the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and I'm looking at it, trying to figure out how to work it.

DJ HAD NEVER TRAINED WITH HIGH POWERED RIFLES LIKE THIS. BUT GEORGE AND CHRIS SHOT WITH THEM FREQUENTLY. THEY WOULD TARGET PRACTICE IN A FORESTED CANYON CALLED LYTLE CREEK. WHICH IS WHERE THEY WERE LEADING THE POLICE THAT VERY MOMENT.

A DETECTIVE WOULD LATER ASK CHRIS HARVEN ABOUT WHY THEY DECIDED TO LEAD THE CHASE TO LYTLE CREEK CANYON

Chris: We thought over the dirt roads we could elude the police vehicles because they catch a lot of dust.

HE SAID THAT ON THE DIRT ROADS UP THE MOUNTAIN, THEY COULD ELUDE THE POLICE VEHICLES BECAUSE THEY’D BE CATCHING A LOT OF DUST

Chris:And we get up there, dump the vehicle and split up and try to make it as we could.

THAT THEY WANTED TO GET THERE, DUMP VEHICLE AND SPLIT UP TO MAKE IT AS THEY COULD.

Radio:If they follow the creek they’re going to go into a dead end.

THE ROBBERS WERE ALREADY AT LYTLE CREEK WHEN DJ REACHED THE HIGHWAY. HE GOT ON THE RADIO TRAFFIC.

DJ: We're trying to tell everybody and through dispatch to pull over that we had an AR and to let us get up to the front. We had a problem because you've got CHP, Riverside County Sheriff, San Bernadino county sheriff. And in those days, we weren't all on the same frequency.

AT THE TIME THERE WAS A RADIO SYSTEM THAT LET DIFFERENT AGENCIES COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER BUT IT WAS ONLY INSTALLED IN A HANDFUL OF CARS. AND SO COMMUNICATING WAS LIKE A GAME OF TELEPHONE.

Radio: Can anyone on this frequency see the vehicle?
NEWS THAT A DEPUTY SHERIFF HAD AN AR SLOWLY PERCOLATED THROUGH THE

COP CAR PARADE HURTLING UP TOWARDS THE MOUNTAINS.

Radio Traffic:San Bernardino is trying to make their way up to the front. They have an automatic weapon...

DJ:He gets the message through and guys are starting to pull over and we were heading up to the front of the pack.

DJ AND THE M16 WERE GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE ROBBERS.

DJ:We got into Lytle Creek, which goes down into a very windy two lane mountain road, and you drive up to the end of the little creek and it turns into dirt and the dirt ending there is a free

     for all shooting area for anybody that's got a gun that wants to
     go and shoot it.

LYTLE CREEK CANYON IS IN THE MIDST OF THE SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS. A WILDERNESS AREA DOTTED WITH CLUSTERS OF PONDEROSA PINES AND TALL YUCCA PLANTS.

DJ:I don't know how any other way to explain this to you, that it's central casting for the Hills Have Eyes. It's just it's bad.

LYTLE CREEK CANYON WAS A GO TO SPOT FOR CRIMINAL ACTIVITY. THERE WAS A FORMAL GUN RANGE BUT MANY VISITORS WOULD IGNORE IT IN FAVOR OF PULLING UP ANYWHERE ON THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN TO BLAST THEIR LEGAL OR ILLEGAL WEAPON. STRAY BULLETS WERE KNOWN TO HIT CARS, HOMES OR EVEN TENTS SET UP BY UNASSUMING CAMPERS. THERE WERE HORRIBLE ACCIDENTS - PEOPLE DIED. IN THE LATE 1960S LYTLE CREEK BECAME A FAVORITE OF DRUG TRAFFICKERS WHO WOULD MOVE IN PERMANENTLY AND EITHER GROW MARIJUANA ON THE SIDE OF THE CANYON ITSELF OR COOK CRYSTAL METH IN BATHTUBS.

DJ:It’s an interesting little community up there.
BUT DJ HAD NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE HE SAW IN LYTLE CREEK, AS HE DROVE ON

THE WINDING DIRT PATH.

DJ:I mean we're passing cars that were shot up.
DESPERATE FOR STRONGER GUNS, OFFICERS WERE SEIZING THE SIDEARMS OF

CIVILIAN BYSTANDERS WHO HAD GONE TO LYTLE CREEK TO PRACTICE SHOOTING.

DJ:Wecommandeeredalimitededition22ithasmoreofalong range. I remember the deputies in front of me were actually pulling rifles away from citizens to take their guns because we didn't have anything that was good, they were taking their weapons so that we could fight with them.

AMID THE CHAOS - ABANDONED CARS, MULTIPLE FREQUENCIES, DIFFERENT AGENCIES - DJ AND HIS PARTNER WERE FOCUSED ON GETTING THE ONE AUTOMATIC WEAPON TO THE FRONT OF THE CHASE IN HOPES OF FINALLY STOPPING THE SUSPECTS.

AND AT ONE POINT HE THOUGHT THEY MADE IT.

DJ:And then all of a sudden this Riverside unit just cuts us off and goes in front of us, didn't know it at the time, but that was Jim Evans.

DEPUTY SHERIFF JAMES EVANS KNOWN AS JIM - WOULD SOON FACE OFF WITH THE ROBBERS AT THE TOP OF THE DESERT MOUNTAIN.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.

PART 3 - LYTLE CREEK

WE’RE BACK.

IN 1975, FIVE YEARS BEFORE THE EVENTS OF THIS BANK ROBBERY, A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED MARY SWEENEY WAS GOING HORSEBACK RIDING WITH A FRIEND IN WOODCREST, CALIFORNIA. A TOWN HALF AN HOUR EAST OF NORCO.

Mary:I was into horses when I was young. I loved animals. I still do.

AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS, THEY BROUGHT THEIR HORSES BACK TO THE STABLE. AT THE TIME, MARY WAS IN AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE WITH A MAN WHO DRANK.

Mary:I didn't go directly home. I went to the friend's house that I was riding with. And we came off the ride and my husband was under the influence, OK, and came up there and started knocking me around because I didn't come right home. And so, you know, my girlfriend and her kids were screaming and yelling when they saw that. Well, and the bottom line went down to the hospital because he was choking me pretty badly, couldn't breathe.

ASC:Oh my god.

Mary:And so the doctor there said, has this happened before? I said, yeah, but nobody ever does anything. He said, well, you call the sheriff's department because you're out in the county. So we call the sheriff's department. And Jim Evans answered the call. That's how I met him.

JIM EVANS WAS A DEPUTY SHERIFF FOR RIVERSIDE COUNTY. An ARMY GREEN BERET AND VIETNAM VETERAN, HE WAS ORIGINALLY FROM TEXAS.

Mary:He was six foot. His hair was rather a light kind of sandy brown. He had a nice looking mustache at that Texas accent.

HE WAS A REAL COWBOY

Mary:He wore his cowboy hat.. And he wore cowboy boots. He always, off duty. He was in jeans and, you know, cowboy shirt.

MARY WOULD TAKE HER KIDS TO BACK EAST WHERE SHE GREW UP TO GET AWAY FROM HER ABUSIVE HUSBAND.

Mary: And while I was back there, my girlfriend, she'd stay in touch with me and all. She said, you know, that deputy, he came by a few times to see how you were doing. And I said, well, that was really nice of him. It was weird because, you know, he said, well, can I have her phone number? So he called me up. So I talked on the phone with him and all. And then he started writing letters to me and I started writing letters back to him. That connection was there. And we ended up getting married.

BEAT

BACK IN CALIFORNIA THEY HAD A CHILD TOGETHER. MARY REMEMBERS FATHER AND SON THE MORNING OF THE ROBBERY.

Mary: He came in, picked up the baby, and he was a chunky baby, he was 10 pounds and I'm like, you know, I’m very small I’m 5’4 about 115 pounds. So he's bouncing the baby on his knee, you know. And so he said to me, you know, Mary some men, never get to see their sons grow up. And I said is there something going to

     happen? He goes, I don't know, it's just a feeling.

Music

AFTER LEARNING OF THE ROBBERY, JIM EVANS, WHO WAS THE KIND OF EXPERIENCED OFFICER WHO RUSHED TO ANY CRIME SCENE, HAD MUSCLED HIS WAY TO THE THE FRONT OF THE CHASE. HIS CAR HUGGING THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN AS HE WOUND HIS WAY ON THE NARROW JAGGED PATH IN LYTLE CREEK.

Radio:I think Evans is the closest one.

JIM TRIED TO KEEP SOME DISTANCE FROM THE YELLOW TRUCK BECAUSE THE SUSPECTS WERE CONTINUING TO SHOOT LIKE CRAZY BEHIND THEM AS THEY SPED FORWARD.

Radio: Are they stationery at that point? Evans: that’s a negative. They’re moving, they’re firing like crazy.

A HELICOPTER HOVERED ABOVE - RADIOING DOWN THE LOCATION AS BEST HE COULD TO THE CARS IN PURSUIT.

RADIO:Ok he’s still moving Northbound according to chopper.

Radio:Evans you ok? EVANS: Yeah I’m ok. We’re still following.

BECAUSE OF ALL THE CURVES, THE SUSPECTS WERE IN AND OUT OF SIGHT FOR JIM EVANS. HE FEARED HE WOULD ROUND A CORNER AND FIND THEM READY TO AMBUSH HIM. HE ASKED THE DISPATCHER TO JUST LET HIM KNOW IF THE SUSPECTS SUDDENLY STOPPED.

Radio: Tell me if they stopped that’s what we want to know. Ok. GEORGE WOULD LATER TELL THE DETECTIVE THAT THEIR GOAL WAS SIMPLY TO

ESCAPE AND STOP THE POLICE FROM FOLLOWING THEM

George: We're in Lytle Creek and - and uh what we're tryin' to do is hit the engines on the police vehicles to stop 'em.
Detective:Uh huh.

George: To stop police vehicle. I wasn't tryin' to kill. THE ROBBERS WOULD DRIVE UNTIL THE DIRT ROAD IN FRONT OF THEM WAS

WASHED OUT. THEY COULDN’T DRIVE ANY FURTHER.

Detective:You went around the corner I take it. George:We kept driving until we came to the dead-end.

THEY ABANDONED THE YELLOW TRUCK. JIM WAS IN THE POLICE CAR THAT WAS CLOSEST BEHIND THEM.

AND DJ MCCARTY - WITH THE AR BETWEEN HIS KNEES - WAS BEHIND HIM. BUT JIM AND DJ COULDN’T COMMUNICATE BECAUSE THEY WERE ON DIFFERENT FREQUENCIES.

DJ:All of a sudden, Jim's car, Deputy Evans’ car stops dead in front of us and we stop for a second and we're looking and we're going, what is he doing? I can't really see what's going on in front of Evans because the bend in the road.

JIM CALLED INTO THE DISPATCH.

RADIO: We’re taking rounds
DJ REALIZES THAT AROUND THE CORNER, THE SUSPECTS HAVE STOPPED THEIR

VEHICLE, AND ARE NOW SHOOTING TOWARDS JIM EVANS.

DJ:I look back up at Evans and I see him jump out of the driver’s side. He goes behind his unit, drops to the ground, and I remember he dropped down on one knee.

JIM QUICKLY RELOADED HIS GUN.

DJ: He dumped his dead rounds out, And I remember thinking, damn, he's good. Because he did it, just one, two, three, reloaded his gun. And then I looked up and I saw one of them take a position on the side of the hill, point his rifle right where he went down.

DJ LOOKED AT JIM CROUCHED BEHIND THE CAR AND THOUGHT “ JUST DON’T POP UP .”

DJ: And it was split seconds. All I could think is don't get up. And he got up and he took around in the right eye, which basically killed him instantly.

Radio:Evans you there? Evans who’s in the truck? Jim talk. DJ COULD BARELY PROCESS WHAT HE HAD JUST WITNESSED

DJ:My world blew up. There was brain matter, blood, glass, parts of his lights on the top of his car, everything. And it's in a valley where these weapons are echoing. And it was just pure terror.

     And I just saw that Evans went down and then they saw me
     sitting there. They just plastered my car, every time I
     move my arm or whatever did anything a bullet went by and I
     got shrapnel in my face and a bullet that bounced off my
     dashboard and into my right elbow.

DJ’S FIRST IMPULSE WAS TO DIVE UNDERNEATH HIS CAR

DJ: Istuffed a two hundred pounds, six foot two body under, about five inches of a Fairmont patrol car. Which is getting turned into Swiss cheese.

Shots

HE TOOK A DEEP BREATH AND TRIED TO KEEP IT TOGETHER. HE REALIZED THAT IN HIS MOMENT OF PANIC, HE HAD LEFT THE ARIN THE CAR SEAT. AND SO HE BLINDLY STUCK HIS HAND UP.

DJ:I reached up and started feeling around in the car and I just grabbed the barrel of the AR that was laying on the front seat. I thought to myself, okay, just get this thing working and get over the door. Scream all words your mother told you never to use and start shooting. I stand up over

     the open door and I just get a visual of four men in front
     of me. And I just started shooting. And thank God they
     turned around and ran.

RADIO TRAFFIC

THE ROBBERS DITCHED THE YELLOW TRUCK AND SET OFF ON FOOT INTO THE WILDERNESS OF LYTLE CREEK. THE SUN WAS BEGINNING TO GO DOWN

Music
MONTHS EARLIER, JIM EVANS AND HIS WIFE MARY HAD GONE TO A FUNERAL

Mary: We were up at that cemetery. He said, I want you to know this is where I want to be buried. If I go in a shoot out, that's exactly what he said to me, he said, then bury me in my police uniform. But if I die normally, bury me in my military uniform. I said, why are you telling me these things? And he said, because I just want you to know. And he said, if anything ever happens. Make sure you always take my son to Texas. I said, I'll do that. And so.

ASC:Oh Mary, I’m so sorry.
Mary:That's OK. And so I said, I'll do that, Jim, I'll do that.

ACCORDING TO MARY, BEFORE JIM DIED, HE HAD GROWING CONCERNS ABOUT ABOUT OFFICER SAFETY.

Mary:Because of the duty that he did in Vietnam and and Green Berets, he knew a lot about guns and everything else. And uh he sent many memos to the sheriff that last year before he died.

     He told  them we need military assault rifles. It was almost like
     he could see it coming and he'd tell me something big is going to
     happen.

NEXT TIME ON NORCO ‘80.

DJ: When people are trying to kill you, when they've shot eight cops, civilians robbed a bank and they're shooting at you. Yeah, I want to kill them. I don't want to, I don't want to capture them.

AN ANGRY POLICE FORCE REACTS.
AND ONE MORE PERSON WOULDN’T MAKE IT OFF THE MOUNTAINSIDE ALIVE.

Officer: As we searched the area and the helicopter, we spotted yellow gloves. And shortly thereafter, the suspect was down.

Norco 80 is written and produced by me, Antonia Cereijido and by Sophia Paliza Carre. The show is a production of LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios.

Leo G is the executive producer for LAist Studios. Marlon Bishop is the executive producer for Futuro Studios.

Audrey Quinn our editor

Joaquin Cotler is our Associate Producer. Juan Diego Ramirez is our Production Assistant.

Marialexa Kavanaugh is our intern.

Fact checking by Amy Tardif.

Engineering by Stephanie Lebow and Julia Caruso.

Original music by Zach Robinson.

This podcast is based on the book Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan

Special Thanks to Bill Crowe and to Paul Benoit

Our website is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios.

The marketing team of LAist Studios created our branding.

Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.

If you want to hear more Norco ‘80 please follow or subscribe to the podcast onApple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, the iHeart App or wherever you get your podcasts.And don’t forget to rate and review the show!

END

EPISODE 3Chapter 3: The Robbers
George Smith didn't set out to rob a bank. He just wanted to survive the apocalypse.
icon2 Episode Details

A QUICK WARNING: SOME OF THE SERIES INCLUDES DESCRIPTIONS OF VIOLENCE.

LAST WEEK ON NORCO 80:

Radio Traffic:...The suspects are stranded, the vehicle’s disabled at Hamner and 4th!

Detective: Who got killed at the bank? George:Billy.
Detective: Billy? What was his last name? George:Delgado.

Detective: Billy Delgado? He was the driver of the van? George:And one of my best friends, yes.

ON MAY 9, 1980, SHARON DICKENS REMEMBERS BEING TERRIFIED WHEN MASKED ROBBERS BURST INTO THE BANK WHERE SHE WORKED AS A TELLER.

Sharon:The only thing that I can remember thinking was just do as he says, do as he says, give him what he wants. That's what they taught us in training. Don't try and be a hero.

AFTER THE ROBBERS LEFT THE BANK, AND THE FEAR FADED, SHARON LEARNED FROM THE POLICE, THAT THE ROBBERS WEREN’T RANDOM, ARMED STRANGERS. ONE OF THEM, GEORGE SMITH, WAS ACTUALLY HER NEIGHBOR.

Sharon:We had an acre and a quarter of property. Their backyard was up against my, our backyard, where they had dug their tunnel, if you will, where they were going to retreat to. I mean, they were living right there.

ASC: Did you know that there was a crazy bunker being built next door to you?

Sharon: No!Heavens no. The FBI actually interviewed my then father and mother in law because they thought originally they thought it could have been an inside job because the suspect's back yard backed up against our back yard. But I set them straight real quick.

MUSIC CUE

THAT DAY, THE POLICE WERE SO ASTONISHED AT THE LEVEL OF FIREPOWER THAT THE SUSPECTS DISPLAYED, THAT THEY CAME UP WITH A LOT OF WILD THEORIES ABOUT WHO THEY WERE.

ONE OF THE OFFICERS ON THE SCENE THOUGHT THE ROBBERY MIGHT BE RELATED TO THE LEFTIST MILITANT GROUP THAT HAD KIDNAPPED HEIRESS PATTY HEARST.

Rolf: Is this some kind of terrorist outfit? Not only are they armed to the teeth with rifles but they’re dressed in military fatigues.

THE FBI THOUGHT THEY MIGHT BE A NOTORIOUS GROUP OF BANK ROBBERS FROM CANADA KNOWN FOR USING A TIMER

Andrew:These guys we believe are the Stop Watch Gang and that they do take over bank robberies.

OR MAYBETHEY WERE A RADICAL REVOLUTIONARY OUTFIT, KNOWN FOR THEIR BOMBINGS OF GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS AND BANKS

Rolf:I was a little concerned at the time. You know there was this wild group, the weathermen that were out there, the Weather Underground. I was wondering, is this them?

BUT NONE OF THESE THEORIES TURNED OUT TO BE TRUE.

THEME MUSIC

I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND THIS IS NORCO80. A SERIES ABOUT GOD, GUNS, SURVIVALISM, AND THE BANK ROBBERY THAT CHANGED POLICING FOREVER.

CHAPTER 3: THE ROBBERS

George: We're all uh really good friends. And then uh we all ran into really bad luck all at once.

THEME MUSIC OUT

FIVE YOUNG MEN PLAYED A PART IN THE BANK ROBBERY IN NORCO CALIFORNIA THAT DAY.

NONE OF THEM HAD EVER ROBBED A BANK BEFORE, OR EVEN COMMITTED A MAJOR CRIME.

THE ASSUMED RINGLEADER OF THE GROUP - WAS THE CHARISMATIC GEORGE SMITH.

FBI:You - you planned the operation yourself or ? George:Uh, yes, I did. It was mine.

WHEN QUESTIONED BY THE POLICE, GEORGE WOULD TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PLAN TO ROB THE BANK.

FBI: Your operation all the way. You told them what to do in the bank?
George:I told 'em what to do in the bank. I cased the bank. Made the bombs. I did all that.

HE SAID “I TOLD ‘EM WHAT TO DO IN THE BANK. I CASED THE BANK. MADE THE BOMBS. IDID ALL THAT.”

BUT LONG BEFORE GEORGE DREAMED UP A PLAN TO ROB A BANK - HE WAS A SHY KID.

Rosie:The first time I ever saw George, I believe he was in the third grade. I don't remember. But I thought what a handsome young man.
ASC: Even in the third grade?

Rosie: Ithought he was really nice looking. Yes, I did. ASC:And what did he look like?
Rosie:Oh, he had dark hair and dark eyes and beautiful color brown skin like a tan. And he was real quiet and cute.

ROSALINDA MIRANDA JOHSON MET GEORGE SMITH GROWING UP IN ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA.

Rosie: I'm 67. And my profession is I'm a grandma.
ASC: I love that.
Rosie:Me too. My grandkids pushed me around and got me by the fingers in my nose. They always tell me where we're going to go. C’mon grandma. We're going shopping.

BACK IN THE ‘60s, ROSALINDA DIDN'T MUSTER UP THE COURAGE TO TALK TO GEORGE UNTIL HIGH SCHOOL.

Rosie: He worked for the school paper. At lunchtime, I went by and I said, hi, George. And he said, hi back. And I said, You still got your car. He goes, No, it's kind of broken right now. And then I said something like, well, when you get your car fixed, why don’t you give me a call. And he said, Really? And I said, Yeah.

MUSIC

     He came over one night and knocked on the door and I was
     making tortillas. And he says, you probably forgot. He
     goes, but you said you'd go out with me on the movies.

THAT’S WHEN THEY STARTED DATING.

Rosie: Sometimes we'd be talking with a bunch of other people and then he'd be looking at me and he'd give me his eyes like, you know, he really liked me. And then when we're alone, he'd say, "you know how much I wanted to hold you”
ASC:So romantic!
Rosie: You remember that show “That girl” with Marla Thomas? Well, it was about a girl that was in New York and she had a boy boyfriend named Donald.
And I always would go up to George and put my head on his shoulder and I'd say, Oh Donald.

OH DONALD

THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE GEORGE AND ROSALINDA GREW UP, WAS IN A HISTORICALLY SEGREGATED SUBURBAN COUNTY, SOUTH OF LOS ANGELES.

AND ROSALINDA REMEMBERS HOW IN THE LATE 50s HER SCHOOL WASN’T VERY OPEN TO FAMILIES LIKE HERS.

Rosie: Since I am a Mexican you know, my parents and grandmother, you raise your kid with the language that you have at home. And then​ ​when I started school, I found out I had to speak English and it was really difficult for me and I'd get in a lot of trouble.

ONE TIME, SHE SAID HOLA TO SOME GIRLS AT SCHOOL WHO SHE THOUGHT WANTED TO PLAY. BUT THEY TOLD ON HER AND THE TEACHERS SHOOK HER AS PUNISHMENT FOR NOT SPEAKING IN ENGLISH.

Rosie: When I went and got in line they run and tell my teacher,And I get another shook,you know, my head would be like a bobbing back and forth. And so I kind of kept kind of quiet after after that.

GEORGE’S FAMILY HAD MOVED TO ORANGE COUNTY IN 1956, WHEN HE WAS 4 YEARS OLD, FROM CASPER, WYOMING. HIS FATHER WAS WHITE AND HIS MOTHER WAS JAPANESE-AMERICAN, AND THEY WERE LOOKING FOR A PLACE WHERE THEY MIGHT FIT IN BETTER.

GROWING UP HALF WHITE AND HALF JAPANESE IN THE DECADES AFTER WORLD WAR TWO, GEORGE WAS USED TO BEING CALLED AN ETHNIC SLUR FOR JAPANESE PEOPLE.

BUT IN ORANGE COUNTY HE SEEMED TO BE DOING PRETTY WELL. IN HIGH SCHOOL, HE WASN’T JUST THE EDITOR OF THE SCHOOL PAPER – HE ALSO PLAYED ON THE TENNIS TEAM.

AT 18 - AFTER HE GRADUATED, HE AND ROSALINDA GOT MARRIED. THEY WENT TO A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE AND HAD A RECEPTION AT HIS PARENTS’ HOUSE.

Rosie:And they decorated the place and they had lots of food and some mixed drinks, even though we were not old enough to drink... And we didn't. And it was really nice. I liked it. I really enjoyed that. That part of our marriage.

BUT AT THAT POINT ROSALINDA ALREADY HAD CONCERNS.

Rosie:When we were young, when we were dating, he told me he had to do something. And that was to kill somebody. ASC: He told you he had to kill somebody?
Rosie:Yes, he wanted to know what it felt like.

SHE SAYS HE SEEMED FASCINATED WITH DEATH.

Rosie:He goes best thing to do - take a whole bunch of pills.
ASC: He was telling you to take a bunch of pills? Oh my god that’s awful.

Rosie:He'd always say that look like Romeo and Juliet. He says, Let's be like Romeo and Juliet. I'm thinking like hell I am. No way. No way I'm going to take no Romeo and Juliet. Not this Mexican.

ONCE ROSALINDA HAD TRIED TO BREAK-UP WITH HIM. SHE SAYS HE THREATENED HER SAYING: “IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU, NO ONE CAN HAVE YOU.”

MUSIC WINDOW

IN 1970, ABOUT A MONTH AFTER THEY WERE MARRIED, GEORGE JOINED THE ARMY. IN HIS ENLISTMENT PICTURE, HE’S GOT A BROAD AND CROOKED SMILE. HIS DARK HAIR WAVY, THE PINS ON HIS UNIFORM SHINY.

AT THE TIME, THE VIETNAM WAR WAS LOSING PUBLIC SUPPORT.

Clip:Strike! Strike! Strike!

THAT YEAR, FOUR STUDENT PROTESTORS WERE SHOT AND KILLED BY THE NATIONAL GUARD AT AN ANTI-WAR PROTEST AT KENT STATE. IT SPARKED DEMONSTRATIONS AT HUNDREDS OF COLLEGES. AND EVEN MORE BACKLASH AGAINST THE DRAFT.

Clip:We are here to demand in our name an end to the war in Vietnam. Not in ‘72, not in ‘71, but in 1970.

BUT GEORGE, VOLUNTEERED FOR THE ARMY. HE WOULD BE SENT TO GERMANY.

RIGHT BEFORE HE SHIPPED OUT, THINGS TOOK A TURN FOR THE WORSE BETWEEN HIM AND ROSALINDA. SHE REMEMBERS JOKINGLY TELLING GEORGE–

Rosie: And I said, hold George up I have a baby. And I always play that game. I like to play games. I don't know.

HE CALLED HER TO THE LIVING ROOM FROM THE BEDROOM.

Rosie: And then when as soon as I went through that threshold up from the door that goes into the living room, George was standing on the side. And when I walked by there, he got a kick. I just heard a foomp.

SHE SAYS HE KICKED HER IN THE STOMACH.

Rosie: And then he said. That's in case you're pregnant. I don't want no kids. And I knew this guy was serious, so I thought ay carramba I need to exit to the left.

Beat

GEORGE WOULD LATER DENY THIS.

ASC:So was it a kind of a situation where once he was gone, you were like, this is my chance to get out? Rosie:Yes. I hate to say that I don't want to, but it was not really a very safe place for me to be.

     Before he came back from Germany, I wrote him a Dear John
     letter. I wanted to wait till he came back, but that
     wouldn't be fair to him. And then that's when I met Mr.
     Johnson.

MUSIC

ROSALINDA MET ANOTHER MAN WHILE GEORGE WAS AWAY. AND SO WHEN HE CAME BACK FROM THE SERVICE, AFTER TWO YEARS, THEY GOT DIVORCED.
GEORGE STARTED LOOKING FOR A JOB AND ENDED UP WORKING IN PARKS MAINTENANCE FOR THE NEARBY TOWN OF CYPRESS.

IT’S DURING THIS TIME, THAT HE WOULD MEET THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BECOME HIS SECOND WIFE, HANNE PALMER.

ASC:What did you look like at the time?
Hanne:I was blond, blue-eyed, cute. And that was not really, you know, my problem, attract men. But I wasn’t that good with choosing because I had issues from home.

HANNE HAD EMIGRATED FROM GERMANY A FEW YEARS BEFORE. SHE CAME TO LOS ANGELES ON VACATION AND LOVED THE SUN AND OCEAN SO MUCH, SHE DECIDED TO STAY.

ONE NIGHT IN 1974, SHE WENT OUT, AFTER HER SHIFT AT A JEWELRY DISTRIBUTION CENTER.

Hanne: I went with a friend from work, we went to a dancing place, I guess it was a disco or something, and that's where I met him. He was charming and bright and kinda liked the way he looked, he looked a little bit foreign, curly black hair. But I really wasn't looking for a boyfriend, but he was pretty persistent.

     Gosh, we really probably didn't have that much in common,
     but somehow we got together.

ONE DAY, GEORGE TOLD HANNE HE WANTED TO GO HOUSE-SHOPPING. HE NEEDED MORE SPACE FOR HIS DOGS, BIG HUSKIES HE HAD AT THE TIME. AND SO HE AND HANNE WENT TOGETHER TO TALK TO A REAL-ESTATE AGENT

Hanne:But the guy said, well, why don't you guys get married? And then, you know, you can afford that place. And I still... I still remember I just kind of sort of freaked. I really did. I felt a little funny. And that’s when it kinda came up the first time about getting married.

SHORTLY AFTER THEY DID GET MARRIED. AND AFTER A WHILE, HANNE NOTICED​ ​SOME THINGS WERE OFF WITH GEORGE’S FAMILY.

Hanne:They were friendly enough. But um....they you know, we lived so close and they never ask, you know, how we were doing or anything. And then, you know, he said his mom said

     that, you know, I was really out of his league. And so I
     thought maybe that wasn't such a nice thing to say to your
     son.

GEORGE ALSO TOLD HER ABOUT SOME PHYSICAL ABUSE IN HIS CHILDHOOD. HANNE SAYS THAT HE TOLD HER, HIS FATHER BEAT HIM, AND HIS MOTHER BURNT HIS SISTER WITH CIGARETTES.

IN 1976, HANNE AND GEORGE HAD A CHILD, A GIRL THEY NAMED MONICA. AT THIS POINT, HANNE WAS SEEING A SIDE OF GEORGE THAT SCARED HER.

Hanne:Well at first it started out just, you know, hit the wall and made a big hole in the wall. And then he pushed me. And then, you know, once Monica was there, I think he felt a lot of the attention that he thought he wanted or whatever went to her. One time he... I think he would have hit me. But, you know, I took my daughter and ran out the back door in my underwear. And luckily we had nosy neighbors. So they came out. And so then he stopped. See I wasn't so good for myself, but I know I didn't want my daughter to grow up this way. So that's when I started thinking of how to leave safe.

ROSALINDA AND HANNE BOTH REMEMBER GEORGE AS CHARMING AND POSSESSIVE. BUT THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT CHANGED BETWEEN THE RELATIONSHIPS, A SHIFT AFTER HE RETURNED FROM HIS MILITARY SERVICE. THIS IS ROSALINDA AGAIN.

ASC: Was he really religious when you were together? Rosie: No, he didn't believe in God. He said there is no God. I try to tell him, you know, George, there is a God and you know that the Lord, you know, died for him and me on the cross and that. But he just said, I don't believe it. And so I just figured maybe later on in life he might find the Lord.
ASC:And then He did!
Rosie:Yes, he did.

BEAT

THE GEORGE HANNE MET WAS A CHANGED MAN

MUSIC

Hanne:He had this whole thing. He, you know, I don't know, he was one of God's elected to be a prophet or something. He just really went far out there. I think part of it was to want to be important to someone, to something.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.

PART 2: RELIGION

WE’RE BACK.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IN THE 1970S WAS THE EPICENTER OF CHRISTIAN YOUTH CULTURE.

Lonnie Frisbee:He has given us the message... Jesus is coming back, repetent. And turn to the lord and save yourselves from this evil generation.

WHERE GEORGE WAS LIVING, IN ORANGE COUNTY, THE “JESUS MOVEMENT” WAS SWEEPING UP THOUSANDS OF YOUTHS INTO A NEW KIND OF ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE.

Lonnie Frisbee: God is blowing everybody’s mind, because he’s saving the hippies and nobody thought that a hippie could be saved

AT THE NEARBY CALVARY CHURCH IN COSTA MESA, LONG-HAIRED PREACHERS SPREAD A MESSAGE OF PEACE AND LOVE

Lonnie Frisbee: You cannot see the wind but you can see the leaves rustle through the winds...you cannot see the spirit of God move but you can see it when he touches people.

Merges into Ethereal Music

GEORGE HAD GROWN UP WITH THE BIBLE AT HOME – DISCUSSED CHRISTIANITY WITH HIS FATHER – BUT AFTER HE RETURNED FROM HIS TIME

IN THE ARMY, GEORGE BEGAN TO REALLY STUDY IT. FRIENDS SAID HE TALKED ABOUT IT OBSESSIVELY.

A FRIEND WHO GREW UP WITH GEORGE RECALLS BEING BAPTIZED TOGETHER, BY A PASTOR OF THE CALVARY CHURCH AT HUNTINGTON BEACH. AT THE TIME - OCEAN BAPTISMS WERE POPULAR, THOUSANDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE, HALF NAKED, MANY LONG-HAIRED, WOULD MEET ON THE SAND, AND WADE INTO THE WATER AT SUNSET, TO BE BAPTIZED BY LINES OF MINISTERS.

GEORGE HAD VISITED THE CALVARY CHAPEL, BUT HE DIDN’T STICK WITH JUST ONE CHURCH. HE ATTENDED SERVICES ALL OVER, TAKING IN DIFFERENT TEACHINGS.

WHAT HE BECAME FIXATED ON​ ​WAS ONE PARTICULAR IDEA. A BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION THAT WAS GROWING IN POPULARITY OUTSIDE OF THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT TOO. THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING, AND COMING SOON.

David Templeton: So what some people would imagine is that there would be a trumpet sound, we would disappear and our clothes would just fall to the ground and people would come and say, what's this? Oh, it must be the rapture.

DAVID TEMPLETON WAS A TEENAGER IN THE 1970s. HE WAS GOING TO THE CALVARY CHURCH AT THE SAME TIME AS GEORGE.

David: There was a popular song by Larry Norman called I Wish We'd All Been Ready.

LARRY NORMAN WAS ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF CHRISTIAN ROCK, A GENRE THAT WAS JUST BEGINNING.

SONG: LARRY NORMAN - I WISH WE’D ALL BEEN READY

David: And the lyrics included things like life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor. I wish we'd all been ready.

     And there's a line in there about a trumpet blast and
     people rising up and then all this horrible stuff that's
     going to happen afterwards.

MUSIC BEAT

FOR CENTURIES, SOME CHRISTIANS HAVE BELIEVED THAT JESUS CHRIST WILL RETURN ONE DAY AND THE WORLD WILL END. THAT WHEN THE RAPTURE COMES, WHEN TRUE BELIEVERS ACROSS THE WORLD WOULD DISAPPEAR INTO THE HEAVENS, LEAVING BEHIND THE REST OF HUMANITY TO WAR, DISASTER, FAMINE, AND GENERAL SUFFERING.

David: We were always kind of halfway in between this sort of ecstasy of the intensity of it and the just incredible fear because we were waiting for the end times to begin.

IN THE ‘60S AND ‘70S, ANXIETY AROUND THE COLD WAR LED TO RENEWED POPULARITY IN CHRISTIAN GROUPS THAT PREACHED THE END TIMES.

David: Nuclear exchanges hanging over us definitely was something that we'd all grown up with doing those drills and school where we'd hear the siren and hide under a desk, we all had that fear of the end of the world, which dovetailed really nicely into this fear of the end times. We had been trained to believe that the world was about to end, but we are now told it's not going to happen because of Russia. It's going to happen because of the Antichrist.

GEORGE HAS SAID THAT WHILE IN THE ARMY, HE WAS ASSIGNED TO WORK WITH NUCLEAR BOMBS AND WEAPONRY. AND THAT BECAUSE OF THAT EXPERIENCE HE CAME TO BELIEVE IN A VERY REAL WAY, THAT THE END OF THE WORLD COULD HAPPEN AT ANY MOMENT.

HIS BELIEF WAS REINFORCED BY THE POPULAR CULTURE OF THE TIME.
IN THE 1970S, DOOMSDAY CHRISTIAN BELIEFS ENTERED THE MAINSTREAM WITH BOOKS LIKE “THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH.”

Clip: Man is faced by unprecedented perils that threaten to send him crashing into the dark abyss of silence known as extinction

IT PREDICTED THAT THE RETURN OF JESUS, AND THUS THE END OF THE WORLD, WOULD HAPPEN IN THE 1980s. THE NEW YORK TIMES CALLED IT THE “NO. 1 NON-FICTION BESTSELLER OF THE DECADE.”

IT WAS EVEN TURNED INTO A MOVIE NARRATED BY ORSON WELLES.

Clip:Then as now, man believed himself too sophisticated for prophesies. But now prophetic patterns exist that cannot be ignored; cannot be forgotten.

IT WASN’T THE ONLY POPULAR APOCALYPTIC BOOK OF THE TIME. IN 1974, “THE JUPITER EFFECT” SET A DATE FOR THE END-TIMES TOO.

Clip:SUNSPOTS; SOLAR FLARES. GIGANTIC Eruptions on the sun’s surface....

WRITTEN BY TWO SCIENTISTS. IT PREDICTED AN ALIGNMENT OF THE PLANETS WOULD CAUSE A SERIES OF NATURAL CATASTROPHES BY THE YEAR 1982.

Clip:How many how severe? It’s anybody’s guess. All we know for certain is that no civilization on earth has ever been so vulnerable.

MUSIC TRANSITION BACK TO REALITY

HANNE PALMER AND GEORGE SMITH DIDN’T TALK ABOUT RELIGION WHEN THEY FIRST STARTED SEEING EACH OTHER. BUT LATER ON HE TOLD HER ABOUT HIS GROWING CONCERNS.

HANNE:He kind of got into revelation in the Bible and the seven year war. And he felt we needed to get ready for that.

GEORGE WAS MOST INTERESTED IN THE PARTS OF THE BIBLE THAT PREDICTED THIS TIME OF TRIBULATION. AND HE WANTED HANNE AND BABY MONICA TO START PREPARING RIGHT AWAY.

HANNE:He got a little,kind of carried away with that and he felt he had a special role in this and needed to keep his family safe. And I think that was one of the reasons he later wanted money to get a place in the country to keep his friends and family safe.

IN OTHER WORDS—GEORGE BECAME OBSESSED WITH PREPARING FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. HE WOULD TALK ABOUT MOVING TO A REMOTE LOCATION, WHERE THEY COULD HUNKER DOWN AND BE SAFE.
THESE IDEAS MADE HANNE UNCOMFORTABLE. AND AFTER GEORGE TRIED TO HIT HER, SHE WANTED TO LEAVE.

Hanne:I wasn't quite sure how to do it. And I didn't have family I mean, in America where I lived, I had friends, but I felt embarrassed to tell anybody, you know, that was not the time people knew about abuse.

AND THEN, SHE SAW A WAY OUT. AT THE TIME, SHE AND GEORGE WERE LIVING TOGETHER IN A HOUSE THEY OWNED.

BUT GEORGE CAME TO HER ONE DAY WITH A PLAN, FOR THEM TO BUY ANOTHER HOUSE WITH HIS PARKS DEPARTMENT COWORKER CHRIS HARVEN.

Hanne: This whole thing with Chris came in there and then they wanted to grow pot.

THEY WANTED TO START A MARIJUANA FARM IN THE BACKYARD. HE AND HANNE WOULD JUST NEED TO SELL THEIRHOUSE FIRST.

HANNE:So I said, OK, let's sell the house. But I said, I'm not gonna go with you, you know, when you go. But I don't want the police come to my door.
ASC:When they were growing the marijuana, was that purely for their own recreational use?

Hanne:No to sell it to make money! That was the big money. MUSIC

Hanne: Somehow I think he thought, you know, once they have made enough money, I would come back.

BUT THEY NEVER WOULD. AND SO GEORGE PUT TOGETHER A NEW PLAN - A PLAN TO ROB A BANK.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK.

PART 3: CHRIS/THE HOUSE

WE’RE BACK.

TESTING TESTING AUDIO

WHEN THE POLICE CAPTURED AND QUESTIONED THE ROBBERS, THEY FIRST INTERROGATED GEORGE SMITH. BUT THEIR OTHER MAIN FOCUS WAS A 29-YEAR OLD MAN NAMED CHRIS HARVEN. AND CHRIS WOULD BE THE ONE TO TRY TO EXPLAIN THE “WHY” - WHY THEY WANTED TO ROB A BANK.

CHRIS:Might say it started...when my friend George split up with his wife.

CHRIS TOLD THEM IT ALL STARTED WHEN HIS FRIEND GEORGE HAD SPLIT FROM HIS WIFE HANNE. GEORGE AND CHRIS WOULD BUY A HOUSE TOGETHER. THEN THEY BOTH LOST THEIR JOBS.

CHRIS:I had a job for seven years, as soon as the guy took over, you know that, didn’t like me, got rid of me, and so that’s why I’m on unemployment.

MUSIC

CHRIS TOLD THE POLICE “THAT’S WHY I’M ON UNEMPLOYMENT.”

Chris: George lost his wife, his job, his family, he didn’t care too much, and he was without money so...he proposed a job.

CHRIS SAID “THAT’S WHEN GEORGE PROPOSED “A JOB.”

MUSIC WINDOW

CHRIS HARVEN FIRST MET GEORGE SMITH IN THE EARLY 1970s, WHILE THEY WERE DIGGING DITCHES IN THE SUN AND LAYING MULCH FOR THE CITY OF CYPRESS PARKS DEPARTMENT.

HE WAS 6FT TALL AND A PHYSICALLY FIT MAN, WITH DIRTY BLONDE HAIR AND A SILKY MUSTACHE. WHILE THEY WORKED THEY TALKED ABOUT COLD WAR

POLITICS OR THE BIBLE. THEY BONDED OVER THEIR SHARED FEAR THAT ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, THE WORLD WAS FALLING APART. AND THEY OBSESSED OVER ANY EVIDENCE OR SIGNS THAT THE APOCALYPSE WAS COMING. THEY BOTH AGREED - THE END OF THE WORLD WAS IMMINENT.

Beat

SO CHRIS AND GEORGE HAD PUT DOWN A $5,000 DEPOSIT ON A HOUSE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD NORTH OF NORCO. GEORGE USED HIS VETERAN STATUS TO GET A DISCOUNTED MORTGAGE, AND THEY GOT A RUN DOWN, STUCCO, 3-BEDROOM HOUSE.

ASC:OK, great. Where am I calling you at? Where in the country are you?
LANI:I'm in California's Central Valley. ASC: Oh, OK cool.

LANI HARVEN, CHRIS’S WIFE AT THE TIME, LIVED WITH BOTH OF THEM FOR 6 MONTHS. CHRIS HAD MET LANI WHEN SHE WAS 16 YEARS-OLD, AT DISNEYLAND.

LANI:I would go there with a couple of friends, and at that time it only cost like three fifty to get in. But now we didn't ride rides. There was a dance floor and we would go dancing there. Which is healthy for a teen to do there. He and his friend approached me and my cousin, and that's all how we danced and we met that way.

CHRIS WAS TWO YEARS OLDER THAN LANI. HE TOLD HER HE WAS STARTING COMMUNITY COLLEGE, HOPING TO BE A LAWYER. THEY MARRIED WHEN LANI WAS 18. CHRIS NEVER GRADUATED. A COUPLE YEARS LATER THEY HAD A SON.

ASC:And so what was Chris like as a as a husband and as a father?
Lani: As a husband, it was fine for the first maybe year and so but then he became deceitful. You know, back then I know marijuana was not legal and all, but he was smoking it. I didn't know. And I found it and I approached him and it just seemed like I couldn't trust him and he was unfaithful.

SHE SAYS HE CHEATED ON HER REPEATEDLY. AND SHE WASN’T PLEASED WHEN CHRIS AND GEORGE BEGAN BUILDING A WEED FARM.

LANI: And the backyard was all dirt. And that’s where they built their...I don’t know what it was. They built something to grow there.

MUSIC

IN THE BACKYARD, THE MEN BUILT A GREENHOUSE. THEY TOPPED IT WITH BARBED WIRE AND FIBERGLASS.

AND WHILE THEY BUILT THEIR WEED OPERATION, THEY ALSO BEGAN MAKING OTHER PREPARATIONS - FOR THE END OF THE WORLD.

Lani:So basically, they were digging a tunnel for the purpose of protecting...well, they would say even myself to go down there if a bomb hits or whatever.
ASC:Did they say where the bomb was coming from?
Lani:No, just the end of the world, you know, just whatever would happen. I don't really recall.
ASC:Would you just kinda tune it out?
Lani:Yeah, there you go.

THEY DUG A 10 FOOT DEEP PIT, WITH TUNNELS UNDER THE HOUSE. BUT THIS WAS JUST A STARTER SHELTER, THE PLAN WAS ONCE THEY’D SAVED ENOUGH THEY’D BUY A HOUSE IN UTAH OR ANOTHER REMOTE PLACE, AND BUILD A TRUEBUNKER.

AT THE TIME, LANI DIDN’T TAKE THEM TOO SERIOUSLY. HANNE, GEORGE’SEX WIFE, WOULD SOMETIMES COME OVER AND SHE AND LANI WOULD IGNORE THE MEN, AS THEY TALKED ABOUT RELIGION OR PLAYED LONG, INTENSE GAMES OF RISK.

Lani: She would come and we would watch TV and stuff and again they would be in the back room talking or whatever, doing their smoking, whatever, what they were doing.

CHRIS AND GEORGE HAD FRIENDS COMING IN AND OUT OF THE HOUSE. GEORGE SOMETIMES PRACTICED WITH HIS SMALL BAND - HANNE REMEMBERS HE WAS THE FRONTMAN.

Hanne:He really he was the singer and then he had a harmonica and had somebody with a guitar...they basically mostly played in the garage.

THEY CALLED THEMSELVES “MIXED COMPANY.” THEY WOULD DO SMALL GIGS AT BARS OR FAIRS.

Hanne: Yeah, it was kind of, you know, rock and roll type of thing. Yeah, it was. It was you know, like I don't think it was that great, but it was good.

THE GUITARIST IN THE BAND HAD TWO BROTHERS THAT GEORGE WOULD BECOME FRIENDLY WITH. THE OLDER WAS 21-YEAR OLD MANUEL DELGADO, KNOWN AS MANNY.

HANNE:His wife came. And I liked her. She was really nice. THE YOUNGER WAS 17-YEAR OLD BELISARIO DELGADO - KNOWN AS BILLY.

Hanne: Billy was very sweet. I don't know. All I remember is I had to go grocery shopping or something, so he either went with me or he helped me to put them inside. He was a very sweet young man.

BY MARCH OF 1980, THINGS WERE COMING TO A HEAD FOR CHRIS AND GEORGE. AT THIS POINT NEITHER OF THEM WAS WORKING FULL-TIME. AND NOT ONLY HAD THEY NOT SAVED ENOUGH FOR A BUNKER IN UTAH, THEY WERE NOW STRUGGLING TO PAY THE MORTGAGE.

LANI HAD DECIDED TO LEAVE CHRIS AND MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE.

ASC:Did you know about them starting to buy and store guns or bombs?
Lani:No. I think when they started getting that is after I left. But I know they probably got money from their growing, you know what I mean? I just felt like your guys’ mind’s in the clouds or something.

IF THEY LOST THE HOUSE, IT WOULD MEAN LOSING THE TUNNELS THEY HAD BUILT IN THE BACKYARD AND THE OVER 300 MARIJUANA PLANTS THEY’D BEEN CAREFULLY GROWING.

THIS IS WHEN THE IDEA OF A ROBBERY BECAME THE SOLUTION TO ALL THEIR PROBLEMS.

BUT THEY WOULD NEED SOME HELP TO PULL IT OFF. CHRIS AND GEORGE BEGAN TO RECRUIT.

MUSIC

MANNY DELGADO WOULD HELP GRAB THE CASH.

HE HAD LONG SIDEBURNS AND HIS INITIALS TATTOOED ON HIS ARM. HE WAS ABOUT TO HAVE A SECOND CHILD, AND FIGURED HE COULD USE THE MONEY.

BILLY DELGADO​ ​WOULD BECOME THE GETAWAY DRIVER.
BILLY WAS MANNY’S TEENAGE BROTHER WAS A SOMEWHAT UNLIKELY

RECRUIT. HE WAS VERY YOUNG AND STRUGGLED WITH ARTHRITIS
AND RUSSELL HARVEN - KNOWN AS RUSS - WOULD BECOME THE LOOKOUT.

RUSS WAS CHRIS’S YOUNGER BROTHER WAS THE LAST MEMBER THEY WOULD BRING IN ON THE PLAN. HE HAD THE SAME LIGHT HAIR BUT HE ALSO HAD A LONG, BRUSHY BEARD. HE WAS 26, AND HE WAS BEHIND ON HIS CHILD SUPPORT.

FINALLY - CHRIS WOULD HELP GATHER THE MONEY. AND IT WAS DECIDED GEORGE WOULD BE THE TIMEKEEPER.

IN THE WEEK LEADING UP TO THE ROBBERY, GEORGE CASED THE BANK, MEMORIZING THE LAYOUT SO HE KNEW WHERE THEY WOULD POSITION THEMSELVES TO GRAB THE CASH IN UNDER 2 MINUTES.

CHRIS AND GEORGE HAD ALREADY BEEN BUILDING A GUN COLLECTION. BUT WITH THEIR REMAINING MONEY, THEY BOUGHT MORE. THEY HAD

AR-15s, SHOTGUNS, THOUSANDS OF ROUNDS OF AMMUNITION, AND A GERMAN SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE KNOWN AS A HECKLER. GEORGE WOULD TELL POLICE ABOUT HOW THEY WENT PRACTICE SHOOTING.

George:'Bout once a month.
Officer:You come up here shooting about once a month? And you shoot those M-16's?
George:Heckler.
Officer:Heckler? Is that .45 caliber?

USING A COPY OF THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK AND GEORGE’S MILITARY KNOWLEDGE, THEY BEGAN TO TRAIN.

MUSIC

THEY WENT TO A NEARBY MOUNTAIN TO TARGET PRACTICE AND SET OFF HOMEMADE BOMBS AND GRENADES.

IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE ROBBERY, GEORGE STOPPED CUTTING HIS HAIR SO HE COULD BE LIKE THE BIBLICAL HERO SAMSON - WHOSE HAIR WAS THE SOURCE OF HIS INCREDIBLE STRENGTH.

BUT DESPITE THEIR TRAINING AND PREPARATION - THE ROBBERS NEVER IMAGINED - THAT THIS HEIST OF GEORGE’S LOCAL BANK, WOULD TURN INTO A EXTENDED MANHUNT ACROSS SEVERAL COUNTIES.

Officer: Is this the first bank you guys have ever robbed? George:The first one I ever did. Criminality isn't my profession.

GEORGE TOLD THE POLICE “CRIMINALITY ISN’T MY PROFESSION”

THE WINDING JOURNEY TO THEIR FINAL STAND OFF WITH THE POLICE WOULD INVOLVE 33 COP CARS DAMAGED, EIGHT OFFICERS WOUNDED, AND EVEN ONE HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN FROM THE SKY.

Detective:Who shot up our helicopter? That's gonna be an expensive one to pay for.
George:Did it get hit?
Detective:Yeah.

George:That was - that was part of the wild firefight. We were all shooting.

[Radio Traffic - confusing shouting]

DEPUTY ROLF PARKES: My dispatch asks, can you confirm if a helicopter is being shot out of the sky? I go what? Are you kidding me?

MUSIC

THAT’S NEXT TIME ON NORCO 80.

END

Norco 80 is written and produced by me, Antonia Cereijido and by Sophia Paliza Carre. The show is a production of LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios.
Leo G is the executive producer for LAist Studios. Marlon Bishop is the executive producer for Futuro Studios.

Audrey Quinn our editor

Joaquin Cotler is our Associate Producer. Juan Diego Ramirez is our Production Assistant.
Marialexa Kavanaugh is our intern.

Fact checking by Amy Tardiff.

Engineering by Stephanie Lebow and Elishiba Itoop.

Original music by Zach Robinson.

This podcast is based on the book Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan

Special Thanks to Ralph Miranda

Our website is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios.

The marketing team of LAist Studios created our branding.

Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.

If you want to hear more Norco ‘80 please follow or subscribe to the podcast onApple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, the iHeart App or wherever you get your podcasts.And don’t forget to rate and review the show!

THIS EPISODE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF RALPH MIRANDA, WE WERE GRATEFUL TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK TO HIM FOR THIS STORY. WE THANK HIM AND HIS FAMILY FOR THEIR TIME.

EPISODE 2Chapter 2: The Firefight
The bank robbers make it out of the Security Pacific Bank, cash in hand––but they’re immediately met by the police and a firefight begins.  We meet one of the first officers on the scene, who explains the culture of the Norco police force in the 1970s and reveals just how unprepared they were for an armed robbery of this magnitude. Norco ‘80 is produced by LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios. *Editor’s note: For clarification, Deputy Sheriff Andrew Delgado-Monti carried both a revolver and a shotgun during the firefight outside the Security Pacific Bank, which was standard for the Riverside Sheriff’s Office at the time.
icon2 Episode Details

Chapter 2: The Firefight
A quick warning: Some of the series includes descriptions of graphic violence PRE-ROLL

Radio static

AT AROUND 3:30PM, ON MAY 9th 1980, DEPUTY SHERIFF ANDREW DELGADO-MONTI WAS FINISHING UP WORKING THE TRAFFIC BEAT IN NORCO CALIFORNIA WITH A FELLOW OFFICER

Andrew: Well, we're we're standing by cars and in Riverside we had an alert tone that the dispatchers push a button and it would send out a tone to all the cars. It would go beep.

BEEP

Andrew: When that went off. Everybody listened because something hot is going to be put over the radio.
Radio: Riverside to Norco units. Have a 211 in progress. Security Pacific Bank at 4th and Hammner

Andrew: Something bad is happening
Radio: The suspect vehicle is a green van with weapons. Andrew: It was broadcast over the radio: armed suspects seen entering the bank.

ONLY SECONDS AFTER THE BANK ROBBERY WAS ANNOUNCED ON THE BROADCAST, AN OFFICER HAD ARRIVED AND THE SHOOTING HAD BEGUN.

Andrew: We threw our coffee down and we jumped in our cars. And we hear Bolaskey.
Radio: I’ve been hit!
Andrew: Glenn Bolaskey jump on a radio screaming bloody murder.

Radio: Officer hit. Clear the air 1199. Theme Music

I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND FROM LAIST STUDIOS AND FUTURO STUDIOS THIS IS NORCO80, A SERIES ABOUT GOD, GUNS, SURVIVALISM AND THE BANK ROBBERY THAT CHANGED POLICING FOREVER.

CHAPTER 2: THE FIREFIGHT

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WHEN GEORGE SMITH AND THE OTHER SUSPECTS EXITED THE BANK

Detective:The first car that showed up at the scene the officer got out, were you shooting at him?
George:Yes. I just sprayed bullets like every - you know. Just a wild firefight.

Theme Music Out

AS GEORGE SMITH WOULD ADMIT THE NEXT DAY - WHAT HAPPENED RIGHT OUTSIDE THE BANK WAS A BLUR TO HIM. THE DETECTIVE ASKED HIM IF HE REMEMBERED SHOOTING ANY OFFICERS AT THAT TIME

Detective: Did you guys hit any officers at that time? George: Nobody knew. It was just burst. It was just like uh bullets were flyin' everywhere.

GEORGE SAID NOBODY KNEW - IT WAS JUST A BURST, BULLETS WERE FLYING EVERYWHERE.

GEORGE AND THE OTHER SUSPECTS CARRIED SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, WHICH WERE LEGAL. BUT THAT LEVEL OF FIREPOWER WAS RARELY SEEN OUTSIDE OF THE MILITARY. THE POLICE WERE SHOCKED TO SEE THAT KIND OF GUN IN THE HANDS OF BANK ROBBERS. AND THAT WAS BEFORE THEY REALIZED THE SUSPECTS ALSO HAD HOMEMADE BOMBS.

Detective: Where did you guys get the materials for the bombs and so on you were throwin' at the patrol units? George: Uh I made 'em out of uh glass and powder. Detective:How did you make 'em?

George:Uh I got uh crushed glass, lead slugs, nails

AFTER THE ARREST, LAW ENFORCEMENT WOULD RECOVER TWO PACKED NYLON DUFFEL BAGS GEORGE HAD PREPARED FOR THE ROBBERY. IN THEM THEY WOULD FIND MAPS, A COMPASS, WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS, MESS KITS, GAS MASKS, EMERGENCY BLANKETS, EXTRA CLOTHING, A KNIFE, TWO MACHETES, AND EVEN A SAMURAI SWORD.

GEORGE WOULD SAY HE WAS JUST BEING “OVERCAUTIOUS”

George: I just got overcautious on the - the whole plan in itself was to roll in and roll out and it didn't happen that way.

HE SAYS THE PLAN ITSELF WAS TO ROLL IN AND ROLL OUT BUT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN THAT WAY.

MUSIC [trumpets]

PART 1

Andrew:Can you hear me?
ASC: Yeah I can hear, can you hear me? Hi, Andrew. Andrew: Good, how about yourself?

DEPUTY SHERIFF ANDREW DELGADO-MONTI WOULD BE THE SECOND OFFICER ON THE SCENE THE DAY OF THE BANK ROBBERY.

TALKING TO ANDREW, YOU REALIZE HE IS THE KIND OF MAN WHO MAKES NO EFFORT TO HIDE THE CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER.

Andrew: I don't deny what I know now.
HERE’S HOW HE TALKED TO ME ABOUT HIS POLICE TRAINING DAYS

ASC: Did you make friends along the way? Andrew:Sure,enemies too.

ANDREW IS MEXICAN AMERICAN, AND HE FEELS HIS IDENTITY HAS A LOT TO DO WITH HOW HE’S BEEN TREATED.

Andrew: You make an enemy when you first walk in the door if you look like me..

GROWING UP, HE WAS RAISED BY MIGRANT FARMWORKERS.

ASC:When you were a kid - like if somebody was looking at your kindergarten class photo, who are you in your class?

Andrew: Well, I was always the smallest guy around. Stuff started when I went to school, started in kindergarten. And I remember that very clearly actually. But I've always been, I'm five foot four, small guy.

EVEN THOUGH HE GREW UP IN EAST LA, HE WAS OFTEN ONE OF THE ONLY KIDS WHO LOOKED LIKED HIM IN HIS CLASSROOMS OF THE LATE 50S AND EARLY 60S.

Andrew:And people who were, you know, not the nicest on the planet to minority kids.

KIDS WOULD PICK FIGHTS WITH ANDREW, CALL HIM RACIAL SLURS.

DURING THIS TIME, WHEN HE FELT LIKE THE ODD KID OUT, HE WOULD LOOK FORWARD TO WHEN HIS UNCLES WHO WERE IN THE MILITARY WOULD COME VISIT. MEN WHO LOOKED LIKE HIM BUT CLEARLY BELONGED TO SOMETHING. SOMETHING BIGGER.

Andrew: Well, they looked special. One would come in and he had his uniform on he'd be wearing his ribbons and he just looked like a million dollars and so neat and clean and impressive in his uniform. I thought, oh, you know, I want to be that someday.

AND HE WOULD - AT 18, ANDREW JOINED THE MARINES. BUT AFTER 4 YEARS, HE DECIDED HE WANTED TO SETTLE DOWN. AND WHEN THINKING ABOUT WHAT TO DO NEXT, HIS FIRST THOUGHT WAS TO CONTINUE TO WORK IN THE SERVICE, TO BECOME A POLICE OFFICER.

Andrew: However, I didn't think that was ever going to happen but that’s what I wanted. Because typically if you look historically at police work, you know, the typical big Irish cop pinchin the apples on his foot beat. That's what what police work was, big white males. That’s what it was all about.

ACCORDING TO ANDREW, IN THE LATE 70S, JUST ONE LATINO OFFICER IN A DEPARTMENT WAS AN ANOMALY. AND TO AN EXTENT THIS IS STILL TRUE TODAY, A RECENT STUDY SHOWED THAT PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE UNDERREPRESENTED NATIONALLY IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. LATINOS MAKE UP JUST 12% OF THE POLICE FORCE AND OF ALL THE ETHNIC GROUPS, ARE THE MOST DISPROPORTIONATELY UNDERREPRESENTED.

Andrew: Women were actually the ones that opened the door for me to become a law enforcement officer. In that there was a lawsuit for having a height requirement that was discriminatory against women because women are typically shorter than men. A lot of police departments, sheriff's departments you had to be like 5'10. And so throughout the country, in California, they started lowering that heighth requirement to the point where they finally eliminated it. And then when that happened, that opened the door for me.

[Music]
ANDREW OFFICIALLY BECAME A POLICE OFFICER IN 1974. [Music]

Andrew: And I remember suiting up, putting on my sheriff's uniform and my Sam Brown, my gun belt, etc., you know my stuff and taking it out to my car and get my shotgun ready. And all the stuff that I trained was trained to do. And then I was what we call Ten8, which means that's a ten code for inservice. And I thought I’m really driving around in a cop car and I’m a cop! And I thought that was pretty cool.

ANDREW ENDED UP IN THE RIVERSIDE SHERIFF’S OFFICE.

HIS DEPARTMENT WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR A HUGE SWATCH OF LAND- MORE THAN 7 THOUSAND SQUARE MILES THAT INCLUDED EVERYTHING FROM WILDERNESS AREAS, TO INDIAN RESERVATION, SMALL DESERT TOWNS LIKE NORCO, AND LARGE FARMLANDS.

IT COULD BE A LONELY JOB- THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT HAD A STRICT ONE COP PER CAR REGULATION. THERE WERE DAYS ANDREW WOULD DRIVE FOR MILES SEEING ONLY A COUPLE COWS OR HORSES.

ANDREW DROVE AROUND THE COUNTY ARMED WITH A SHOTGUN ON HIS DASHBOARD AND A SIDEARM THAT WAS STANDARD. AND BEFORE MAY 9TH 1980, HE THOUGHT THAT GUN WAS ENOUGH. IT WASN’T THE MOST POWERFUL GUN ON THE MARKET, BUT HE LIKED THE FEEL OF IT.

IT WAS ANOTHER ESSENTIAL PART OF HIS GET UP.

ASC: I've seen the pictures and there are a lot of mustaches and bellbottoms. So I am also curious, just like how it looked? But yeah, what was the whole feeling at the time?

Andrew: Well, you know, at the time I had a long hair, longer hair any way. Seemed like all the cops and firefighters as well. We all had mustaches. The culture was in society at that time... I think that was back in the day of Saturday Night Fever. You know John Travolta and all that.

EVEN WITH HIS MATCHING MOUSTACHE, ANDREW HAD TROUBLE FITTING IN WITH THE OTHER POLICE OFFICERS.

A COUPLE WEEKS BEFORE THE BANK ROBBER,Y THE OTHER COPS INVITED HIM TO A PARTY. ANDREW HAD BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO A LAID BACK NIGHT.

Andrew: And we're going to watch Animal House. John Belushi, if you remember that movie or not.
ASC:Yes.
Andrew:It's a funny movie.

Toga party clip
BUT WHEN ANDREW GOT THERE, THINGS FELT REALLY OFF.

Andrew: There are like six or seven deputies in there. One of them is a guy that he and I just did not get along and he was very vocal about that.

     And here’s these guys all sitting on a couch they’re all
     drinking a beer.

They got a porn movie going on. ASC:Oh my gosh

Andrew: In living room there. And the guy that I was having a problem with, his seven year old kid, was sitting in front of that TV watching a porn movie with the rest of these guys. And they're all hootin and all that. And I look at these guys and I saw that guy and I saw that kid, I chugged my beer, I looked at Fred I said, I got to go, man. Actually I really can't stay. Goodbye, see you. And that guy starts spouting off, calling me names, calling me a wetback dumb Mexican. Nobody liked me. Nobody likes Mexicans. I said, let's go outside, let’s go out on patio out here, pal. And everybody poured out. And this sad commentary for me and reflection, not one of those deputy sheriffs that was there told that guy to stop saying those things. That he shouldn't say those things to me or anybody. And he called me everything racial you can imagine related to derogatory, related to a Latino, Hispanic. They didn't tell him to stop. They weren't concerned about it. But they wanted to see us fight. So we went outside. We're standing on this porch, and he started with the name calling again. So I turned around and I dropped him. I punched him and knocked him off the porch. And then I went down there and he got up and I proceeded to kick his ass all over that patio.

MUSIC

ASC: What made you want to stay in an organization that you immediately knew was racist or discriminatory?

Andrew: I was determined not to allow anybody to run me out of something that I wanted. I was not going to let anybody take money out of my pocket. I was supporting my family with that job. Just because they didn’t like the way I look or more importantly, perhaps because I didn’t look like them.

ANDREW WAS WORRIED HE WOULD BE PUNISHED BY THE HIGHER UPS. BEATING UP A FELLOW COP COULD BE THE CAUSE OF SUSPENSION. HE LAID LOW FOR THE NEXT COUPLE WEEKS.

AFTER TWO WEEKS OF SILENCE HE STARTED TO FORGET ABOUT THE WHOLE INCIDENT. THAT IS UNTIL MAY 8TH, 1980, THE DAY BEFORE THE ROBBERY, WHEN THE RIVERSIDE DEPUTY CHIEF STOPPED ANDREW IN THE HALLWAY.

Andrew:He says, I want you in my office tomorrow, 7:30 A.M. sharp. You got it. It's personal. So I show up the next morning instead of the deputy chief it’s the sheriff waiting out there for me. I was waiting out in the lobby. Turned out I was getting promoted.

IT WAS A HUGE RELIEF. HE WASN’T IN TROUBLE AND HE WAS GOING TO ACCOMPLISH A LONG TIME GOAL OF HIS - TO BE A DETECTIVE.

Andrew:Told my wife about it. I just been telling her the night before, I didn’t think I was ever going to get promoted. I was pretty happy about that

ANDREW FELT A LIGHTNESS THAT DAY, AS HE WORKED HIS TRAFFIC PATROL IN DOWNTOWN NORCO. HIS FELLOW PATROLMAN, CHUCK HILLE, ASKED TO GET A COFFEE AT THE END OF THEIR SHIFT.

Andrew: Chuck was single and he was kind of a ladies man, he was a good looking guy. And I knew he had a little girlfriend or a girl that he liked at the Winchell’s, of all places, you know, cops and Winchells.

WINCHELL’S IS A POPULAR DONUT CHAIN IN CALIFORNIA.

Andrew: Well, you wanna go to Winchell's and he goes no no, there's another donut shop there called the Donut Corral. I said, okay. So we went over there and we parked under a tree there. And then we got some coffee, came back out to our cars, are standing next to our patrol cars talking, talking about life and our days back in the desert.

ANDREW LOOKED OUT OVER THE MAIN STREET OF DOWNTOWN NORCO. IN MANY WAYS IT LOOKED LIKE MAIN STREETS ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY: A SLEW OF FAST FOOD CHAINS, GAS STATIONS, AND SUPERMARKETS. BUT BEHIND ALL THIS, IN EVERY DIRECTION ANDREW TURNED, HE COULD SEE THE SLOPING DESERT MOUNTAINS - THE LOOMING RUGGED WESTERN LANDSCAPE.

Andrew:So we're back there he goes, hey what's going on with you? Are you sick or what? You haven't done anything all day.

     I couldn't help myself and I told Chuck, I said, hey, I got
     promoted to investigators this morning. He congratulated me
     and he told me that I was a good cop and that he was glad
     that I got promoted.

ASC:You didn’t know it at the time but you were really close to where the robbers were at that moment.

Andrew: Two blocks east one block north of the bank. We obviously had no clue that those guys were about to do that.

CLICKER

Time time

Clicker going out

George: I should’ve made it a minute and 30 instead of 2 minutes. I f***d up.

BEEP

Radio: Riverside to Norco units. Have a 211 in progress. Security Pacific Bank at 4th and Hammner

MEANWHILE, THE ROBBERS, MONEY IN HAND, WERE EXITING THROUGH THE DOUBLE DOORS OF THE BANK.

BY CHANCE, AN OFFICER, DEPUTY SHERRIFF GLENN BOLASKY< WAS AROUND THE CORNER, WHEN THE POLICE DISPATCH WENT OUT. TWO SECONDS LATER, HE WAS WAS ON THE SCENE.

THE ROBBERS DOVEINTO THE SEVENTIES-STYLE VAN THEY HAD STOLEN EARLIER, AS THE OFFICER DROVE INTO THE BUSY BANK PARKING LOT.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT IS DEBATED - BUT MOST WITNESSES WOULD LATER TESTIFY THAT THE ROBBERS BEGAN FIRING ON THE OFFICER THE MOMENT HE DROVE UP,

THE OFFICER TRIED TO STAY LOW IN HIS SEAT WHILE YANKING HIS CAR INTO REVERSE, BACKWARDS OUT OF THE LOT AND INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. THEN HE GRABBED HIS SHOTGUN.

ONLY 21 SECONDS AFTER THE DISPATCH CAL WENT OUT, THE FIREFIGHT HAD BEGUN..

Radio Traffic: I’ve been shot 4th and Hammner
ANDREW AND HIS FELLOW PATROLMAN HEARD THE FIRST OFFICER ON THE

RADIO

Andrew: We threw our coffee down and we jumped in our cars. ANDREW SLAMMED ON HIS GAS PEDAL HEADING TOWARDS THE BANK.

Radio Traffic: I been hit!

Andrew: Terrifying, radio broadcast. And I'm thinking, holy cow. He's had it. I'm thinking I’m gonna get these guys, they’re not gonna get away.

Radio: I need help! Ambulance responding.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK

PART 2

THE FIRST OFFICER AT THE SCENE HAD BEEN SHOT.

Radio Traffic: Riverside to all Units. Units at the location are being fired upon. Unit’s been hit.

HE WAS ALSO SHOOTING BACK. BACK TOWARDS THE VAN WITH GEORGE AND THE ROBBERS WHO WERE TRYING TO ESCAPE THE BANK PARKING LOT.

ALL THE WHILE, GARY HAKALA, THE KIDNAPPED OWNER OF THE VAN, IS STILL TIED UP IN HIS VEHICLE’S CLOSET.

Gary:When they got in the van, the sound is echoing. And, you know, there was a three ‘08 high caliber rifle inches from my ear. Things got real loud. I can hear the bullets hit the van. The shots coming from.. I didn’t know who it was, a cop or a security guard. But I can hear the little pops coming from from his revolver.

THE SUSPECT DRIVING THE VAN MANAGED TO GET OUT OF THE PARKING LOT AND ONTO THE ROAD, STILL TAKING BULLETS.

Gary:The van speeds off and does a U-turn. I can hear breaking glass in the van. Every piece of glass is shattered. The rearview mirror, the side mirrors. There's not a piece of glass left in the van. And all of a sudden the shotgun blast comes through the window. It missed me by an eighth of an inch and my face is pressed against the side of the door to the closet. I can feel the van all of a

     sudden decelerate. One pellet from that shotgun, broke the
     neck of the driver and he slumps forward and we crash into
     something which I can see at the back is a chain link
     fence.

Radio Traffic: The suspects are stranded! The vehicle’s disabled. At Hamner and 4th!

THE DRIVER WAS WOUNDED, BUT IT WASN’T CLEAR IF THE SHOT HAD KILLED HIM. THE OTHER SUSPECTS FILED OUT OF THE VAN AND CONTINUED TO FIRE AT THE FIRST POLICE OFFICER.

ANDREW - WHO WAS RUSHING TO THE SCENE FROM THE DONUT CORRAL - FINALLY TURNED ONTO THE STREET OF THE BANK.

Andrew: And as we’re getting closer. I'm within a half a block of the bank.

BUT AT FIRST HE COULDN’T SEE THE ROBBERS OR THE FIRST OFFICER ON THE SCENE WHO CONTINUED TO YELL IN PAIN OVER THE RADIO.

Radio Traffic: I’m bleeding real bad! I got an artery hit. I need help!

Andrew:I got the radio where are they?
That's when I saw them. And that's when I heard the gunfire.

WHEN ANDREW GOT TO THE SCENE. THE VAN WAS STILL REVVING INTO THE CHAIN LINK FENCE. THE DRIVER SLUMPED IN THE FRONT SEAT.

Andrew: Traffic was backed up at the intersection. Nobody was going through the intersection because of all this.

IT WAS A BUSY INTERSECTION WITH A FEEDSTORE FOR HORSES AND A CARL’S JR.

Andrew: The people were lined up like they were watching a movie.

AFTER THE FOUR REMAINING ROBBERS HAD FILED OUT OF THE VAN, THEY HAD NOT LOST TRACK OF THE FIRST OFFICER WHO CONTINUED TO SHOOT TOWARDS THEM FROM BEHIND HIS CAR.

Andrew: They were taking turns, rotating, shooting at Bolasky.

THE SUSPECTS WERE DUCKING BEHIND THE VAN DOORS AND POPPING BACK UP. A MANEUVER ANDREW RECOGNIZED FROM HIS MILITARY TRAINING.

Andrew: They didn’t hear me come up because I had turned off my siren.

QUICKLY, ANDREW’S CAR SCREECHED TO A HALT.

Andrew:I jumped out my shotgun, and I fired four shotgun blast into this group of men for about 40 yards away or so. And I thought, well, this is over. They're not surviving four shotgun blast going at them. Well, nobody fell down. and one of them turned around. The point guy at the front of the van pointed at me. And I knew there were starts shooting at me.

music

FOUR MEN, ARMED WITH A SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS TURNED THEIR ATTENTION ON ANDREW. THINKING AS FAST AS HE COULD, ANDREW STARTED TO WEIGH HIS ODDS.

Andrew: I didn't think I was going to survive with all these guys with all these guns.

HE HAD NEVER SEEN ANYONE OUT IN THE FIELD WITH AS MUCH FIREPOWER AS THESE MEN. HIS HAND GUN SEEMED PUNY COMPARED TO THEIR AR-15S.

HE DOVE ON THE GROUND AND SCRAMBLED UNDERNEATH HIS PATROL CAR. HE CONTINUED TO SHOOT IN THEIR DIRECTION. AS HE CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT HE WAS GOING TO DIE, ANDREW’S MIND WENT TO SOMETHING MUNDANE.

Andrew:I was laying on the ground and it was payday. And we got paid with paper checks back then. And I had mine in my left breast pocket.

     And while I was reloading my shotgun I was actually
     thinking, the detectives are going to be going through my
     pockets which they do when someone is lying there dead.
     they're going to find my paycheck. And that they're going
     to have to send it back to payroll and have another one
     issued for my wife. I mean, I thought that very quickly.

BUT SUDDENLY A GLIMMER OF HOPE- BACKUP

Andrew: I see a black and white a sheriff's car.

IT WAS THE OTHER PATROLMAN ANDREW HAD JUST BEEN HAVING COFFEE WITH, CHUCK HILLE. THEY HAD SPLIT UP ON THE WAY TO THE SCENE, TAKING DIFFERENT ROADS, IN ORDER TO POTENTIALLY CUT OFF THE SUSPECTS.

Andrew: He came up. He turned right into that for that feed store, made a U-turn, drove back across fourth.

HE HAD TURNED AROUND AND WAS GOING TOWARDS THE FIRST OFFICER WHO HAD BEEN SHOT.

HE WASN’T COMING TO COVER ANDREW.

Andrew: A lot of mixed emotions going on and about like that. I was very happy about saving his life or at least trying to. But I was certain that I was not going to survive.

MEANWHILE, THE SUSPECTS WERE HURTING. NOTHING HAD GONE TO PLAN. GEORGE SMITH WOULD LATER TELL THE DETECTIVE, ANDREW HAD SUCCESSFULLY SHOT THREE OF THEM.

George: We were catching bullets from all angles. I got hit, uh Manny got knicked in the face, and Russ got knicked.

HE SAYS ANDREW’S BULLETS WERE HITTING THEM FROM ALL ANGLES. AND WITH THEIR VAN TOTALED, THEY KNEW THEIR ONLY PATH FOR ESCAPE WAS STEALING ANOTHER CAR.

Detective: You abandoned the van. Right? Tell me how you got the second vehicle.
George:We ran up there and - and just uh told the man to get out of the - get out of the truck or get his head blown off in that respect.

     We wouldn't have blown his head off though.

MIKE LINVILLE WAS A 24 YEAR OLD MECHANIC. HE WAS ON HIS WAY HOME AND STOPPED AT A LIGHT WHEN HE SAW THE GREEN VAN CRASH INTO THE CHAIN LINK FENCE. HE REALIZED HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIREFIGHT,

Mike: Pretty crazy situation, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about much. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. bullets were ricocheting off of my truck.

MIKE CAUGHT GLIMPSES OF THE ROBBERS WHILE TRYING TO KEEP HIS HEAD DOWN.

Mike: They were all wearing ski masks in army fatigues. You know.

ALL OF A SUDDEN, MIKE SAW ONE OF THE SUSPECTS SPOT

Mike: Iwas looking up over the top of the dash, just my eyeballs, you know. I locked eyes with this one guy and he was a pretty good sized guy and he had his rifle up in the air at that point.

BUT THEN THE SUSPECT LOWERED IT AND POINTED IT TOWARDS MIKE AS HE STARTED TO CHARGE TOWARDS HIM.

Mike: Imean I already seen these guys shoot it out with the coppers.
I knew he wasn’t going to open the door and ask me if I wanted to loan him the truck. I threw my door open. I went out the driver door and they were coming in the passenger door.

THE SUSPECTS HIJACKED MIKE’S YELLOW TRUCK.

Mike: Irolled out onto the pavement and took off running. I stopped and looked back and those guys were loading bags of bombs and ammunition and guns and everything else into the truck. Then they smashed into the car in front of me and blasted their way out of the intersection.

BEFORE THE ROBBERY, THE SUSPECTS HAD SET UP TWO OTHER GETAWAY CARS, JUST A COUPLE BLOCKS AWAY FROM THE BANK.

IF THEY COULD GET THERE, THEY COULD STILL ESCAPE. BUT AS THEY LOOKED TO EXIT THE INTERSECTION, THERE WAS ONE THING IN THEIR WAY: ANDREW.

Andrew: So here they come. There was no cover. As they got alongside me, and I put my head under the left rear tire.

WHEN WE HEAR ANDREW TALK ABOUT THIS WHOLE SCENE TODAY - 40 YEARS LATER - HE’S ALMOST CLINICAL ABOUT IT. THERE’S AN EMOTIONAL DISTANCE. BUT AT THE TIME, ON THE RADIO TRAFFIC, HE SOUNDED TERRIFIED.

Radio Traffic: 251 - three suspects fled a yellow pick up north of Hamner.

THEY ACCELERATED IN HIS DIRECTION, GUNS POINTED. ANDREW TOOK STOCK OF HIS SITUATION AND HIS SURROUNDINGS AS HE PREPARED FOR IMPACT. THE FOUR SUSPECTS IN THE YELLOW PICK UP TRUCK WERE DRIVING STRAIGHT TOWARD HIM.

Andrew: I figured I might be able survive a hit in a body. But then I had a vest on, but it wouldn't work with those rifles. I saw them stop​ ​and I said, well, if I see any feet, I'll come out and we'll just have to go toe to toe. I had six rounds in my handgun and I'll just shoot as many of them as I can before they kill me. But I'm not going to let them walk over there and shoot laying on the ground in that car. So they stopped, fired my car up, fired me up, you

     know, fired up the patrol car and the ground around me.
     They didn't know where I was at. Which was good. It was, I
     think, pretty obvious at that point that they thought I did
     some kind of disappearing act, which I did. And then they
     took off.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK PART 3 BREAK

RELIEF WASHED OVER ANDREW. THE ROBBERS WERE GONE AND HE WAS ALIVE. BUT THE RELIEF WAS MET WITH ANOTHER FAMILIAR SENSATION, THAT OF RESENTMENT, RESENTMENT TOWARDS HIS FELLOW OFFICERS.

Andrew: And I believe then and I believe now that they left me there to die. They weren't willing to fight to the death. In the middle of a fight. You don't leave until the fights over. No matter who's hurt.

     That's when you leave. Then you go out and help people that
     are hurt. Whatever. But you don't leave.

THE OTHER TWO OFFICERS FROM THE SCENE DID NOT WANT TO BE INTERVIEWED ON TAPE. BUT CHUCK HILLE DID TELL US “I’M SORRY ANDY STILL FEELS THAT WAY. WE NEVER MADE A DECISION TO LEAVE HIM ALONE, BUT IN THE END WE PROBABLY DID.”

ASC: You feel like the Brotherhood kind of let you down?

Andrew: I felt that the brotherhood of police work is there. But not what I thought it was. Why do Marines do what they do in combat? Is it for God, country, corps? It's for each other. I impose that belief value on policework.

Music

Andrew: We’re not a brotherhood. When it comes down to it, you know, and the odds are in our favor, you can expect the cops to be around. But if the scales get tipped a little bit then you’re gonna be on your own. In this case, the

     scales were very much on the bad guy side, because there’s
     more than there was of us. And they had bigger, badder
     weapons and they were using them.

ANDREW SAYS THIS BANK ROBBERY IN NORCO IS WHEN HE CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT HIS GUNS WEREN’T ENOUGH TO PROTECT HIM. HE TOLD ME, IF THERE’S NO ONE ELSE TO BACK YOU UP, ALL YOU HAVE IS YOUR WEAPON.

Andrew: We need to have better firepower than the bad guys. The odds have to be in our favor.

MUSIC

ANDREW WAS STILL PROCESSING WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED TO HIM AS MORE OFFICERS FINALLY ARRIVED ON SCENE.

MEANWHILE, SOMEONE ELSE, VERY CLOSE BY WAS ALSO FEELING FORGOTTEN.

Detective:Where was the guy that owned the van all this time?
George:Tied up.
Detective: Tied up where?

George:In the - in his um cabinet. GARY HAKALA WAS STILL IN THE BACK OF THE VAN

Gary: I'm alone in the van rocking back and forth. There was guns all over the place on the floor. There was homemade bombs. There was money on the floor.

THE ROBBERS HAD​ ​MANAGED TO TAKE ABOUT TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS FROM THE BANK -- AND THEY’D LEFT IT - SPREAD OUT ALL OVER THE BACK OF THE VAN.

Gary: Ijust kind of think “oh gee, sure like to put some of that money in my pockets,” but obviously, I, I couldn't do that.

     And I had held my composure as long as I could at that
     point. I break out of that closet and I see the driver
     slumped over and he's not dead. People don't die like they
     do in the movies. They sometimes hang on for a while, and
     he was sort of gurgling and shaking, going through a sort
     of his body was sort of trembling. He could easily reach a
     couple of handguns and finish me off. I struggle to look
     out the back window of the van. And by now there are
     numerous police across the street with their guns pointed
     at the van.

ONE OF THOSE OFFICERS WAS ANDREW.

Andrew: We're still watching his van. It's sitting there and it starts to move. Starts to roll backwards a little bit and off to the left. Well I thought the suspect was in there trying to get away. So I jumped up and we waited and I had my shotgun nose pointed at where all put our guns down there. Next thing we know, a man appears in the passenger door window and he's shouting and I can't understand him. And he's yelling and yelling.

Gary: I'm a hostage. I'm a hostage. I need help. I was a little disappointed I didn't get help, and I think about going out the back window. Well, I'm taped up. I'm going to break my neck trying to get out. So I go to the side door and I use my teeth and slide that cargo door open. The van’s still moving back and forth. And I roll out of the van. I roll on the ground.

Andrew:He had his hands tied behind his back, taped behind his back...and his legs taped together like a mummy.

Gary: And I can't really roll because my shoulder’s in such pain. So I'm kind of crawling like a like a caterpillar, you know, with my my chin and my my knees as best I can. They're people looking out the window of the restaurant and you know, no one's going to come help me. But finally, this lady cop comes and tells me to get down and I said forget you just get this tape off of me. You know, it hurts so

     bad, you know, that you're numb. Again, I'm going to
     reiterate, I had to pee, so she gets the tape off and
     course I relieve myself in front of all those people, I
     didn't care at that point.

GARY GOT INTO THE OFFICER’S CAR AND WAS DRIVEN AWAY TO GIVE HIS TESTIMONY.

MUSIC

THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE ROBBERS AND THE POLICE WAS ONLY GETTING STARTED. BUT THERE WAS ALREADY IRREVOCABLE LOSS.

Detective: Who got killed at the bank? George: Billy.
Detective: Billy? What was his last name? George: Delgado. Billy Delgado?

THE GETAWAY DRIVER, A 17 YEAR OLD BOY NAMED BELISARIO DELGADO, WHO EVERYONE CALLED BILLY, WAS DEAD.

Detective: He was the driver of the van? George: And one of my best friends. Yes.

NEXT WEEK ON NORCO80 ---

Chris: Nobody’s heard our side of the story. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE ROBBERY.

Lani:They were digging a tunnel for the purpose of if a bomb hits or something like that...yeah! They would talk about stuff like that. They would talk about how it’s coming to an end.

Norco 80 is written and produced by me, Antonia Cereijido and by Sophia Paliza Carre.

The show is a production of LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios.

Leo G is the executive producer for LAist Studios. Marlon Bishop is the executive producer for Futuro Studios.

Audrey Quinn our editor

Joaquin Cotler is our Associate Producer. Juan Diego Ramirez is our Production Assistant.

Marialexa Kavanaugh is our intern.

Fact checking by Amy Tardif.

Engineering by Stephanie Lebow and Julia Caruso.

Original music by Zach Robinson.

This podcast is based on the book Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan

Our website s designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios.

The marketing team of LAist Studios created our branding.

Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.

If you want to hear more about Norco ‘80 please follow or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, the iHeart App or wherever you get your podcasts.And don’t forget to rate and review the show!

end

EPISODE 1Chapter 1: The Robbery
May 9th, 1980 began as a regular Friday in sleepy Norco, a small town about 48 miles east of Los Angeles, known mostly for its horse trails and old western look. But around 3:30pm, five masked men with assault rifles would attempt to rob the Security Pacific Bank downtown. Host Antonia Cereijido introduces us to a region that was rapidly becoming the “Bank Robbery Capital of the World'' in the 1980s. The robbers themselves describe the beginning hours of the ill-fated robbery, that forty years later is still used to justify the evolution of armed policing and crime response in America. Norco ‘80 is produced by LAist Studios in collaboration with Futuro Studios.
icon2 Episode Details

NORCO 80 EPISODE 1: THE ROBBERY

A QUICK WARNING:
SOME OF THIS SERIES INCLUDES DESCRIPTIONS OF GRAPHIC VIOLENCE.

Officer: What's your full name? George: George Smith - Wayne Smith.

ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, A BLEEDING MAN CRAWLS FROM THE SCRAGGLY BRUSH. A HELICOPTER HOVERS ABOVE.

Officer: Okay. You - you're aware I'm tape recording the conversation right? Okay, he nodded his head.
Do you realize that you have a bullet in your back?
There's a possibility that you may die. Do you realize that?

George: Yeah.
Officer: With that in mind, do you wanna tell me anything about what happened?

AN OFFICER CUFFS THE MAN AND A DETECTIVE FLIPS ON A TAPE RECORDER. .

Detective: Did you get in a shootout with the cops in a bank in Norco? The Security Pacific Bank? How many of you were there?
George: Five.
Detective: What were their names?

George: Chris, Bill, Manny, George and Russ.

GEORGE SMITH IS THE FIRST SUSPECT FROM THE BANK ROBBERY THAT THE POLICE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CAPTURE AND QUESTION. HE’S BEEN SHOT MULTIPLE TIMES.

George: I got three in my leg
Detective: Three rounds in your leg?
George: Yeah.
Detective: Where did you get the 3 rounds in your leg? George: At the bank

THE DETECTIVE IS WALKING GEORGE DOWN THE HILL TO A HELICOPTER.

Detective: We are going to do what we can George. But the helicopter can’t land here and we’ve got quite a ways to walk to get to where you can be picked up, do

you understand that? George: Oh goodness

THERE’S A DANGER GEORGE COULD PASS OUT BEFORE HE GIVES A FULL CONFESSION.

Detective: George, what's your full name? Come on, what's your full name?
George: George Wayne Smith.
Detective: How old are you George? George: I'm 27 years old.

Detective: Tell 'em where you're from George. George: Casper, Wyoming. Uh, no more questions.

Music

IT’S MAY 10, 1980. THE DAY AFTER ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE STANDOFFS THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT HAS EVER SEEN. AND IT ALL BEGAN WHEN GEORGE SMITH AND FOUR OTHER MEN TRIED TO PULL OFF A BANK ROBBERY IN NORCO, CALIFORNIA.

BUT THINGS WOULD QUICKLY GO SIDEWAYS.

Detective: Do you know that an officer has been killed?
I'm telling you now an officer has been killed and you'll be taken into custody in San Bernardino County for the murder of one officer. Did you see them kill the officer?
George: NO - I.
Detective: Did you fire at any officers in this canyon area?

Officer: Testing 1-2-3

THAT SAME DAY, POLICE WOULD QUESTION A SECOND SUSPECT. A MAN NAMED CHRIS HARVEN.

Detective: You willing to talk to us about it?
Chris: Whatever I can tell you
Detective: You can probably tell us a whole lot then. Why don’t you start from the beginning, then.

Chris: You mean how the whole thing started?
Detective: Yeah. There ain’t no place like the beginning, right?

WITHOUT EVEN ASKING FOR A LAWYER, THESE GUYS JUST SPILL EVERYTHING: THEY GET STRAIGHT INTO THE DETAILS. THE GETAWAY CAR THEY USED, THE WEAPONS THEY BOUGHT, THE BOMBS THEY MADE, EVEN THE DRUGS THEY CONSUMED BEFORE THE ROBBERY.

Chris: We smoked a lot of pot and drank a lot of booze. That’s the only way I could handle it.
Detective: And how much marijuana did you smoke?
Chris: As much as we could.

[tape recorder restarts]
Stupid. I can’t deny anything about it. The whole thing is stupid.

IN THESE TAPES, YOU CAN HEAR THAT THE ROBBERS ARE STILL PROCESSING WHAT THEY JUST DID. LIKE WHEN A DETECTIVE ASKS CHRIS HARVEN IF THEY HAD PRACTICED THE ROBBERY AHEAD OF TIME.

Detective: Had you guys rehearsed the operation? Chris: No rehearsal.
Detective: Well it went pretty smoothly for no rehearsal. Chris: Smoothly?!

Detective: I mean, you guys went in there like a bunch of professionals from what I understand.
Chris: I thought it was a botched job from the word go.

HE TELLS THE HOMICIDE DETECTIVE - IT WAS “A BOTCHED JOB FROM THE WORD GO.”

Chris: Everything we would have expected to go wrong went wrong.... you know everything that I said would go wrong went wrong.

Theme Music

I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO, AND FROM LAIST STUDIOS AND FUTURO STUDIOS THIS IS NORCO80, A SERIES ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST VIOLENT BANK ROBBERIES IN U.S. HISTORY

MUSIC
IN THIS SERIES, WE LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY IN MAY OF 1980, AND WHAT WOULD HAPPEN AFTER ALL THE GUNSMOKE CLEARED AWAY.

IT’S A STORY THAT BRINGS UP A LOT OF QUESTIONS — QUESTIONS THAT STILL FEEL PRESENT TODAY. AROUND ACCESS TO GUNS, THE PURPOSE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT IN SOCIETY, AND THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF SURVIVALISM.

AND WE’RE GONNA LOOK AT HOW THE SHOCK OF THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY WOULD SPREAD FROM A SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO POLICE ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY... AND PUSHED POLICE TO DEMAND BIGGER, MORE POWERFUL WEAPONS. AND HOW THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE KIND OF POLICING WE’RE STILL GRAPPLING WITH TODAY.

BUT ABOVE ALL, WE ARE GOING TO TELL THE STORY OF HOW FIVE DISAFFECTED YOUNG MEN MADE A PLAN THAT WENT SPECTACULARLY WRONG.

George: The officer wasn’t supposed to happen. Billy wasn’t supposed to happen. None of that was supposed to happen, I f***d up.

MUSIC OUT

THE YEAR OF THE BANK ROBBERY–1980–WAS AN ANXIOUS TIME. THERE WAS A LOT GOING ON. VIOLET CRIME WAS ON THE RISE AND LIKE TODAY, THE ECONOMY WAS TAKING A NOSEDIVE, AND AN UNPOPULAR PRESIDENT WAS FINISHING OUT HIS FIRST AND LAST TERM...

News reel: In 1976 candidate carter promised to lead America to great new heights....In 3 1⁄2 years, millions of American workers find themselves out of work and confidence has fallen to the lowest levels in our nation’s history.

TODAY CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE EXISTENTIAL CRISIS WE LIVE WITH, BUT BACK THEN IT WAS THE COLD WAR.

Protesters: No nukes! No War!

NUCLEAR WEAPONS WERE A POTENTIAL WORLD-ENDING THREAT. AND IN A NATION PRIMED FOR AN APOCALYPSE, RELIGIOUS GROUPS PREACHING THE END TIMES WERE ATTRACTING FOLLOWERS.

Archival: The bible says in the twinkling of an eye millions of people will suddenly disappear...because the rapture will come and Christ will return [cymbal]

AS WE CLOSE OUT ON 2020, A TRYING YEAR TO SAY THE LEAST, IT’S INTERESTING TO LOOK BACK AT ANOTHER TIME WHEN PEOPLE FELT LIKE THE WORLD WAS ENDING. WHEN LIKE TODAY, IT FELT LIKE THERE WAS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY IN THE AIR, AND ALL OF THESE THINGS, ALL OF THIS TENSION, WOULD COME TO A HEAD DURING THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY OF MAY 9, 1980.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK. MUSIC - BREAK

CHAPTER ONE, THE ROBBERY.

Detective: Do you remember me? From homicide?
George: Sure.
Detective: Okay. I'm gonna tape record our conversation again. Okay? George: Um hum.

ONCE THE HELICOPTER ARRIVED AT THE HOSPITAL, GEORGE SMITH WAS HOOKED UP TO AN IV AND A DETECTIVE CONTINUED TO QUESTION HIM.

Detective: How did you get the van?
George: Uh I didn't get it. I had uh Manny and Billy and Russ got it.

HE WALKED THE DETECTIVE THROUGH THE DAY OF THE ROBBERY. BEFORE THE MEN WOULD EVEN GET TO THE BANK, THEY NEEDED TO HIJACK A CAR. THE DETECTIVE ASKED THEM HOW THEY WOULD DO THAT.

Detective: How did they do that? Who did they kidnap? Do you know? George: The owner of the van.

GEORGE SAYS THEY HAD TO KIDNAP A MAN. [MUSIC BUMP]

IT WAS 1980, BUT GARY HAKALA’S VAN WAS HOLDING ON TO THE KITSCHY STYLE OF THE 1970S

Gary: it was just your typical 70s Dodge van. With the shag carpet on the floor. A bench seat all the way around with a closet on the driver’s side.

THE STORAGE CLOSET WAS ESPECIALLY HELPFUL. GARY USED THE VAN FOR HIS CANNING BUSINESS.

Gary: I was canning dehydrated food. I had a greenhouse with a thousand tomato plants going.

AT THE TIME BUSINESS WAS BOOMING. SOME WEEKS, IT BROUGHT IN AS MUCH AS A MILLION DOLLARS.

SO GARY WAS FEELING OPTIMISTIC ON A BRIGHT SUNNY DAY IN MAY, AS HE

DROVE ACROSS THE INLAND EMPIRE TO PICK UP SOME SUPPLIES

Gary: That day was had more things happen that, you know, where all the stars lined up for my benefit and all the stars lined up to work against me

THE INLAND EMPIRE IS A SPRAWLING REGION THE SIZE OF WEST VIRGINIA, STRETCHING ALL THE FROM THE BORDER OF LOS ANGELES TO AREAS AS FAR AS ARIZONA. UP UNTIL THE 1950S, IT WAS KNOWN MAINLY FOR IT’S ORANGE AND LEMON TREES.

Archival: Among California crops, citrus occupies one of the king spots.

BUT IN THE 1980S IT BECAME A DESTINATION SUBURB FOR FAMILIES AND SMALL BUSINESSES LIKE GARY’S. MORE SPACE AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE.

AROUND 11:30 THAT DAY, GARY MADE WHAT HE THOUGHT WOULD BE A QUICK STOP AT A SHOPPING MALL IN BREA, CALIFORNIA.

Gary: I've really got to go to the restroom, and as I am pulling to the parking lot there's a low rider. And there's three guys in there and they’re glaring at me. I was 35 years old and I thought it was quite a little rooster at the time. You know, I'd coached wrestling and wrestled a little in college. And I you know, I probably had a little inflated opinion of how bad I was. But, you know, I'm glaring back at ‘em. I pull around to park. And as I went to the back of the trailer, I had a huge master padlock.

GARY DECIDES TO LOCK UP THE VAN, JUST IN CASE

Gary: Well, as I went to the back of the van – there’s no windows in the back – this low rider pulls up to the side of the van. I didn't hear him and I turned around. And boom, three doors are open.

THREE MEN IN MILITARY FATIGUES JUMP OUT

Gary: And then I thought, well, the parking lot is full of people. I thought, well, I'm going to be OK if I'm calm and I don't agitate these people. I'll be OK.

That was wrong

NEXT THING GARY KNOWS, ONE OF THE MEN iS ON TOP OF HIM

Gary: He's a cracking my head with the gun. He has reinforced nylon tape. Almost impossible to break this stuff. And he tapes me from the wrists up to my elbows and my ankles to my knees. He puts a sack over my head.

A SECOND MAN JUMPS INTO GARY’S VAN.

Gary: I don't know why I said this, but I said take my glasses and put them in the glove compartment.

AND THEN A THIRD MAN JUMPS IN THE VAN AND STARTS TO HACK AT THE SHELVES INSIDE THE VAN CLOSET WITH A KNIFE.

Gary: There’re nails sticking out and splinters of wood. And he says, get in the closet. It's a foot wide. And I said, well, I can't fit in there. Puts the gun practically in my mouth. And it's surprising how small an area you can fit in when you have no options.

THE VAN TAKES OFF WITH GARY CRAMMED INTO THE BACK CLOSET

Gary: As, I'm in there, my shoulders under pressure, my testicles are getting smashed. Remember, I stopped by to pee and, you know, I've got to go to the bathroom. I'm getting cut up in there from the nails and broken stuff. I worked the sack off my head in there and I could see out the back window. I can smell the dairy farms. I'm trying to keep track of the turns so I can figure out where we're going. Pretty soon I'm I give up. I'm lost where we are.

THE VAN PULLS INTO WHAT GARY THINKS IS A CONSTRUCTION SITE WHERE HE SEES TWO OR THREE MORE PEOPLE IN THE SAME MILITARY FATIGUES AS HIS KIDNAPPERS.

Gary: I'm very I guess in some ways innocent person. But it was the first time I'd really smelled marijuana. One of them was on that. I remember the smell. And they started throwing things into the van. I could hear like nylon bags and so on. And I could feel the weight of the van go down under the weight. Then I hear the racking of rifle actions from my ear. It was semiautomatic rifle actions. As they're loading it up, my shoulder is under such immense pain. You know, I think it's out of the socket. My arms and legs have gone numb from the tape, I've got to pee so bad. I’m afraid if I wet my pants that’s all it’ll take to have them go off on me.

All of a sudden. We bounced off a curb and went across the street.

And, you know, it's a go, go, go. I can hear a kid scream. There's a door opens. I didn't know at that point it was the bank.

WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK

WE’RE BACK.

IN THE 1980S, THE GREATER LOS ANGELES AREA WAS KNOWN AS THE BANK ROBBERY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. ACROSS THE COUNTRY, BANK ROBBERIES HAD GONE UP MORE THAN FIFTY PERCENT FROM 1975 TO 1980. AND ACCORDING TO AN FBI INVESTIGATOR, UP TO A THIRD OF BANK ROBBERIES HAPPENED IN LOS ANGELES. AND THERE WAS AN EASY EXPLANATION FOR THIS

Archival: More and more and more cars

THE CALIFORNIA FREEWAY SYSTEM. IT WAS UBIQUITOUS. CALIFORNIA’S POPULATION HAD BOOMED WITH THE ADVENT OF CAR CULTURE AND WHILE FREEWAYS MADE FOR A MUCH SPEEDIER COMMUTE, THEY ALSO ALLOWED FOR A MUCH QUICKER GET AWAY IF YOU WERE A ROBBER.

AND SOME OF THESE BANK ROBBERS WERE SO PROLIFIC, THEY EVEN GOT THEIR OWN NICKNAMES. LIKE THE “YANKEE BANDIT” WHO WAS KNOWN FOR WEARING A YANKEE CAP DURING HIS HEISTS. ONE TIME HE ROBBED 6 BANKS IN 4 HOURS.

AND YET, WHILE BANK ROBBERIES COMMONPLACE, MOST OF THEM WERE KIND OF UNEVENTFUL. A MAN DRESSED IN A SUIT OR UNASSUMING OUTFIT WOULD POLITELY TELL A BANK TELLER THAT HE HAD A GUN IN HIS POCKET AND THE TELLER WOULD HAND OVER A FEW THOUSAND DOLLARS.

BUT THE BANK ROBBERY THAT GEORGE SMITH WOULD CARRY OUT WAS DIFFERENT.

IT DIDN’T HAPPEN IN LA IT HAPPENED IN NORCO, A SMALL TOWN IN THE INLAND EMPIRE ABOUT AN HOUR EAST OF LOS ANGELES.

AND IN 1980 THE TOWN DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A FREEWAY RUNNING THROUGH IT. IN FACT, LOCAL RESIDENTS HAD THEIR OWN UNIQUE WAY OF GETTING AROUND.

Sharon: Norco is a horse community. People came together and, you know, rode their horses

SHARON DICKENS WORKED AT THE LOCAL SECURITY PACIFIC BANK. LOCATED ON THE MAIN DRAG OF NORCO, A PLACE WITH MORE HORSE TRAILS THAN SIDEWALKS.

Sharon: I don't remember there being crime during that time. Everybody knew

everybody...

SHARON ACTUALLY KNEW GEORGE SMITH.

George Smith was one of our clients, was one of our customers. I knew him from the bank. He had real thick, curly hair and he wore glasses. If I had seen him walk through the door at the bank in his street clothes by himself, I probably would have said, “hi, George.”

BACK IN THE HOSPITAL THE DAY AFTER THE BANK ROBBERY, GEORGE WOULD TAKE THE DETECTIVE THROUGH THE ACTUAL HOLDUP.

Detective: Summarize how you guys planned it George: We planned on doing it on a Friday

GEORGE HAD PURPOSELY PICKED TO HIT THE BANK ON A FRIDAY. PAY DAY... SHARON DICKENS WAS WORKING THAT DAY AT THE BANK

Sharon: This Friday was not a typical Friday. In fact, we all talked about how strange it was. It was 3:30 in the afternoon. Normally the branch on a Friday would be jam packed. And it was not.

SHARON REMEMBERS IT WAS CASUAL FRIDAY AT THE SECURITY PACIFIC BANK. THE TELLERS WORE LEVI’S AND T-SHIRTS.

Sharon: We were all in the teller line, as we were expecting the crowd to come on Friday, and we heard this tremendous noise.

Sharon: What it was was the four of them hitting both of those double doors at one time.

GEORGE WAS THE TIME KEEPER. HE HAD A TIMER IN HIS HAND SET TO TWO MINUTES. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SECONDS. THAT’S HOW LONG HE FIGURED THEY HAD TO GET IN, GET THE MONEY, AND GET OUT BEFORE COPS WOULD ARRIVE.

Sharon: and it was like Time seemed to stand still for a minute, nobody moved, nobody said anything-until the command was given to hit the floor.

SHARON DROPPED TO THE GROUND BUT COULD STILL SEE THE ROBBERS.

Sharon: That’s when the suspects took their positions. One jumped up on the counter right in front of me. One stayed by the door

Officer Dvorak: Who stood by the door and called the time that you had? George: I did

SHARON DIDN’T RECOGNIZE GEORGE.

Sharon: They had military fatigues on, they had ponchos, ski masks, camouflage pants, boots, and BIG guns.

Officer: Did you guys have any machine guns? George: All AR'S.
Officer: AR15's?
George: Yeah.

Sharon: I did attempt to push my silent alarm, but the suspect who was on the counter in front of me said “if any effin’ alarms go off, the effing bullets are gonna fly.” so I said uh uh, I aint gonna be no hero.” And then he yelled to get up, and that’s when he threw the bag down in front of me and gave the command to everybody to empty their money into the bag.

George: 30 seconds left. At one minute and 30 seconds I said time 30 seconds.

THEY NEEDED TO BE OUT IN HALF A MINUTE. ONE OF THE ROBBERS DRAGGED THE BRANCH MANAGER TO THE BACK VAULT.

Sharon: At that time I heard one of the suspects yelling “time time.”

Officer: What did you say? George: Time, time.

Sharon: “We’re taking too much time.” So then I said to the suspect on the counter, “You want this? “ And he said, “yes, I want it.” So I took the bag from me and then he looked at me and he goes, “I want you on the floor.” So I sat down. And he said, “no, I want you face down.” And that is the only time that I thought, “this man's going to kill me.” Because he said it a couple of times. I want you face down on the floor. And the only thing I could think of at that time was my three girls being without a mother.

George: At 2 minutes I said time again and now Detective: then you guys all left the bank is that correct George: yes we did

Sharon: And then, they exited

GEORGE AND THE OTHERS HAD MADE IT OUT, MONEY IN HAND. IN TWO MINUTES, JUST LIKE GEORGE HAD PLANNED. NO ONE WAS HURT, NO ONE HAD DIED. THIS COULD’VE BEEN LIKE SO MANY OF THE OTHER BANK ROBBERIES AT THE TIME.

George: I should’ve made it a minute and 30 seconds instead of 2 minutes. I f***d up.

GEORGE TELLS THE DETECTIVE, I SHOULD’VE MADE IT A MINUTE AND 30 SECONDS INSTEAD OF TWO MINUTES. I F***D UP.

THE COPS HAD ALREADY ARRIVED.

Radio Traffic “I’ve been hit!”

NEXT TIME ON NORCO 80.

The cup would pull into the parking lot at the exact second that they came out and that’s where the gunfire erupted.

NORCO 80 IS WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ME, ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND BY SOPHIA PALIZA-CARRE.

THE SHOW IS A PRODUCTION OF LAIST STUDIOS IN COLLABORATION WITH FUTURO STUDIOS. LEO G IS THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR LAIST STUDIOS. MARLON BISHOP IS THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR FUTURO STUDIOS. JOAQUIN COTLER IS OUR ASSOCIATE PRODUCER. JUAN DIEGO RAMIREZ IS OUR PRODUCTION ASSISTANT. MARIALEXA KAVANAUGH IS OUR INTERN. EDITING BY AUDREY QUINN. FACT CHECKING BY AMY TARDIFF. ENGINEERING BY STEPHANIE LEBOW. AND ORIGINAL MUSIC BY ZACH ROBINSON.

SPECIAL THANKS TO JAMES KIRKLAND, TERESA DERUYTER WAGES, AND CURT ROTHSCHILLER, OUR WEBSITE IS DESIGNED BY ANDY CHEATWOOD AND THE ​​DIGITAL AND MARKETING TEAMS AT LAIST STUDIOS. THE MARKETING TEAM​ ​OF LAIST STUDIOS CREATED OUR BRANDING. THANKS TO THE TEAM AT LAIST ​​STUDIOS, INCLUDING: KRISTEN HAYFORD, TAYLOR

COFFMAN, KRISTEN​ ​MULLER, AND LEO G.

IF YOU WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT NORCO 80, PLEASE FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST ON APPLE PODCASTS, SPOTIFY, NPR1, THE IHEART APP OR WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS. AND PLEASE, DON’T FORGET TO RATE AND REVIEW THE SHOW.

Trailer: Norco 80
In 1980, a devastating bank robbery shocked Southern California. It was carried out by masked men determined to outlive the apocalypse. But the robbery would quickly spin out of control, providing a cautionary tale of an America in the midst of an economic recession and serve as a complex conversation about the role of police forces in our communities. This is the story of Norco ‘80, a new podcast from LAist Studios.
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Meet The Team
Antonia Cereijido - Host & Producer

Antonia Cereijido is a host and senior producer with Futuro Media. She was a producer for six years on NPR’s Latino USA and hosted her own segment The Breakdown. She has hosted podcasts for Mic and Slate. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Code Switch, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

Coverage has ranged from a profile of the Mexican-American man who runs the largest and most controversial migrant youth shelters, to a deep dive into the controversy over Oprah's book club selection American Dirt.

Joaquin Cotler - Associate Producer

Joaquin Cotler is an Edward R. Murrow award winning reporter and audio producer. A former GroundTruth Podcast Fellow and a Marquerite Casey Equal Voice Fellow, Joaquin has focused on the opioid crisis and its impact on vulnerable communities in New York and Puerto Rico. His work has appeared on The GroundTruth Project’s “The Fix,” NPR’s Latino USA, and Studio 360. He is currently an associate producer with Futuro Studios.

Juan Diego Ramirez - Production Assistant

Juan Diego Ramirez is Futuro Studios and Latino USA’s Production Assistant At-Large. He is a multimedia producer and journalist based in New York City. He is also the co-producer and co-hosts of Racist Sandwich, a James Beard Foundation nominated podcast on food, class, race, and gender across the globe. You can also find some of Juan Diego‘s work on OPB, Latino USA, Latino Rebels and LA Taco.

Sophia Paliza-Carre - Senior Producer

Sophia Paliza-Carre is a long-form narrative audio producer and editor at Futuro Studios. She began working in audio by developing hyperlocal storytelling and engagement projects, and then worked as a public radio producer for WNYC, Radio Rookies, The Moth, and Arizona Public Media. Radio series she has worked on have been recognized by a duPont-Columbia Award, and a 1st place AP award for “Best News Series.” She has worked as an editor for NPR’s Latino USA, and is now a senior producer at Futuro Studios.

Marlon Bishop - Executive Producer

Currently overseeing Futuro Studios, Marlon Bishop is a Peabody Award-winning radio producer and editor with a focus on Latin America, immigration, identity and society, music and the arts. After a decade working reporting on music for various outlets, he served as Senior Editor on the public radio program Latino USA. Today, he runs Futuro Studios, a new podcast division of Futuro Media. His stories have appeared in The FADER, This American Life, Planet Money, NPR News, Studio 360 and many other outlets.

Marialexa Kavanaugh - Intern

Marialexa Kavanaugh is a freelance journalist and graduate student at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with a concentration in longform reporting. She has written pieces for Narratively, Bedford and Bowery, Feministing.com and LAist. Prior to NYU, she worked primarily in radio, gaining experience as an afternoon newscaster for KSFR in her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Later, she spent a year working at Southern California Public Radio, editing stories for the station’s Arts and Entertainment department.

Audrey Quinn - Editor

Audrey Quinn is a documentary audio editor and reporter in Brooklyn, NY. She teaches audio reporting at the NYU Journalism Center. She hosted the narrative podcast Aftereffect from WNYC Studios, and has worked with Radiolab, Planet Money, Reveal, 99 Percent Invisible, Gimlet, Marketplace, and Frontline. Her work has won awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Newswomen’s Club of New York, the Deadline Club, SPJ NJ, and the National Center on Disability Journalism Award. Audrey is a former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Reporting Fellow.

Zach Robinson - Composer

Zach Robinson is a composer for film, television, and media from Los Angeles. He currently composes the score for the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai. Zach previously wrote soundtracks for Impractical Jokers: The Movie, Quibi's Die Hart, and the videogame Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues. He has contributed music to major motion pictures such as Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Frozen, and The Peanuts Movie.

Amy Tardif - Fact-Checker

Amy Tardif is the Regional Manager of StoryCorps in Chicago. She’s an independent journalist who works as a fact-checker for various podcasts including Latino USA and Futuro Studios as well as editing for the PMJA Editor Corps. She’s a two-time Peabody award winner, was formerly WGCU-FM Public Media’s Station Manager and News Director, the first woman in radio to Chair the Radio, TV, Digital News Association (RTDNA), and she served five years on the Public Radio News Director’s (now PMJA) Board. Amy is a managing editor for NPR's Next Generation Radio Project. She’s spent many years as a reporter, host, and producer.

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