Episode 3 Transcript: Chapter 3: The Robbers
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: W ho got killed at the bank? George: Billy.Detective: B illy? What was his last name? George: Delgado.
Detective: B illy 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! H eavens 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.
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: I s 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 MAYBE THEY 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.
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: Y our 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. I DID ALL THAT.”
BUT LONG BEFORE GEORGE DREAMED UP A PLAN TO ROB A BANK - HE WAS A SHY KID.
Rosie:T he 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: E ven in the third grade?
Rosie: I thought 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.
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.
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, A nd I get another shook, y ou 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.”
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.
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.
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 S OMETHING 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:A nd then He did!Rosie: Yes, he did.
THE GEORGE HANNE MET WAS A CHANGED MAN
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
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 W AS COMING, AND COMING SOON.
David Templeton: S o 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.
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: M an 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, ki nd 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 THEIR HOUSE 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:W hen 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
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.
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.”
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.
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: A s 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: A nd 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.
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 TRUE BUNKER.
AT THE TIME, LANI DIDN’T TAKE THEM TOO SERIOUSLY. HANNE, GEORGE’S E X 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: S he 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: H e 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.
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 ARTHRITISAND 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.
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: M y dispatch asks, can you confirm if a helicopter is being shot out of the sky? I go what? Are you kidding me?
THAT’S NEXT TIME ON NORCO 80.
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
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Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.
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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.
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