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Podcasts Norco '80
Chapter 8: Danger Signs
Norco 80
32:23
Chapter 8: Danger Signs
The Norco Bank Robbery happened over 40 years ago, but its legend continues influence how police officers are trained today. Thanks to one very popular VHS tape.
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NORCO 80
Episode 8 Transcript: Chapter 8: Danger Signs
PREVIOUSLY ON NORCO ‘80:

Rolfe:​ When they talk about the arming of police in America, it starts here. It starts at the ‘Norco bank robbery.

     Radio Traffic

George:​ We’re in Lytle Creek and what we’re trying to do is hit the police vehicles to stop them. I wasn’t trying to kill people.

DJ:​ He took a round in the right eye which basically killed him instantly

Mary: ​He sent many memos to the sheriff’s department in that last year before he died. He kept telling them ‘we need military assault weapons.’ It’s almost like he could see it coming. He knew something was going to happen.

Part 1 : History

WATERFALL

WE HAVE BEEN TELLING THE STORY OF A BANK ROBBERY THAT HAPPENED IN 1980, OVER 40 YEARS AGO.

IN A PREVIOUS EPISODE WE TALKED ABOUT HOW THE RESPONSE TO THE ROBBERY WAS PART OF A NATIONAL MOMENT WHERE POLICE BEGAN DEMANDING MORE POWERFUL WEAPONS.

BUT THERE IS ANOTHER, VERY SPECIFIC WAY THAT WHAT HAPPENED IN NORCO YEARS AGO HAS SHAPED POLICING​ TODAY.​ AND PART OF IT HAS TO DO WITH A VIDEO...

Music

DEPUTY SHERIFF ROLF PARKES WAS ONE OF THE OFFICERS IN THE CHASE THE DAY OF THE ROBBERY.

Rolf:​ Dispatch asks, can you confirm if a helicopter is being shot out of the sky? And I go, What? Are you kidding me?

SHORTLY AFTER THE EVENTS OF NORCO, HE STARTED A NEW JOB AT THE IRVINE POLICE DEPARTMENT.

AND THERE HE WOULD GET A UNIQUE FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

Rolf:​ The captain of patrol, the first thing he said to me he says, oh, I want you to do something for training regarding this thing.

THEY WANTED HIM TO MAKE... A VIDEO.

FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS, ROLF ESSENTIALLY BECAME A MOVIE PRODUCER.

Rolf: A​ nd from that moment on, things built from me just doing some hand drawings and and a little narrative to making it into a a training film.

ROLF GATHERED EVIDENCE FROM THE INVESTIGATION AND THE RADIO TRAFFIC FROM THAT DAY.

Rolf: A​ nd then I had a guy from Disneyland, the voice of Disneyland, Jack Wagner, narrated the thing.

Video: O​ n May 1980 one of the most daring and spectacular bank robberies to occur in the United States took place here.

ASC: H​ ow did you get him? Rolf:​ Somebody knew somebody ASC:​ Who scored it?Rolf:​ So he chose the music, Musiquita

Video:​ Within minutes after the robbery took place countless units from the Corona Police department descend on the scene.

Rolf:​ I wanted people to sit in the car with me at the moment at that day and get a feeling for what it's like to chase bank robbers who are trying to kill you, you know

Another clip

THE MOVIE WAS MADE INTO A VHS TAPE THAT WAS DISTRIBUTED TO POLICE DEPARTMENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO BE VIEWED DURING TRAINING.

ROLF: I​ t was a way for agencies to digest this stuff and then come up with ways on their own. Should they face something like this themselves

FOR ROLF, THE VIDEO ENDED UP BEING MORE THAN A REFERENCE FOR AGENCIES - IT WAS A WARNING

ROLF: S​ o I want I want I want people to understand why there was and is an arming of police in America and why we have to have these kind of resources. We have to have a police force, well armed, prepared and trained in order to answer that threat.

THE VIDEO WAS A MESSAGE THAT SOCIETY COULD COLLAPSE IF POLICE DIDN’T PREPARE FOR THE WORST

ROLF: O​ therwise, you know, we're going to have havoc. You know, it's like the bad guys were will run the world.

THEME MUSIC

I’M ANTONIA CEREIJIDO AND FROM LAIST STUDIOS AND FUTURO STUDIOS THIS IS NORCO 80: A SERIES ABOUT GUNS, GOD, SURVIVALISM AND THE BANK ROBBERY THAT CHANGED POLICING FOREVER.

40 YEARS LATER - THE STORY OF THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY REVEALS HOW A MILITARIZED MINDSET HAS INFILTRATED PART OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.

AND WHAT THAT MEANS IN CONTEXT OF THE TENSE CONVERSATIONS WE ARE HAVING AROUND POLICING TODAY.

CHAPTER 8: DANGER SIGNS

Video:​ In review of the Norco Robbery several key training points and considerations should be addressed.

THEME MUSIC OUT

THE VIDEO DETAILING THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY WOULD END UP BEING 54 MINUTES LONG. IT’S A CINEMATIC ACCOUNT OF THE ROBBERY. IT INCLUDES MAPS AND SKETCHES OF THE ROBBERS AND THE COPS DURING THE CAR CHASE, AND THE SHOOT-OUT.

Video: ​The suspect exited the San Bernardino National Forest through an area known as Lytle Creek. The pursuit had already covered some 35 miles from the security Pacific Bank in Norco to this position in about 42 minutes.

Deputy Parks and Chisholm's unit is disabled by bullets, striking the radiator.

ROLF PARKES SAYING THAT MAKING THE VIDEO HELPED HIM PROCESS THE EVENT.

Rolf: F​ or me, making the film was kind of cathartic if you would. I was able to put a lot of thoughts down on paper and then into film, you know, to help help me personally deal with it. And I think that's what got me through. It was doing that.

BUT THE VIDEO WOULD BRING UP NIGHTMARES FOR DEPUTY DJ MCCARTY - THE OFFICER WHO SAW JIM EVANS DIE.

YEARS AFTER THE ROBBERY HE WAS TRANSFERRED TO A NEW JOB. BUT HE COULDN’T ESCAPE WHAT HAPPENED AT LYTLE CREEK.

DJ: ​We are being trained by the FBI in Point Mugu Naval Station. They come in and say, we've got this movie of a shooting we want you guys to see. It was the lytle Creek bank robbery movie and I'd never seen it and I went oh, God. Yeah. That D.J. was in that I got really worried. And so I put it on during a lights off. They put it on, lights come back on. And one of the guys noticed that I had tears in my eyes. So my sergeant gets a hold of me. A couple days later, he would say, D.J., we've got a problem. What's that, Sergeant? Goes One of the guys noticed that you were having a reaction to that shooting. And they're a little nervous. What you're going to do, when the the bullets start flying again.

DJ TRIED TO ASSURE THE SERGEANT THAT HE COULD HANDLE IT

DJ: ​Well, OK. But we're gonna send you to a shrink anyway. DJ WOULD END UP GOING TO SEE TO NANCY BOHL-PENROD.

BACK THEN, SHE WAS JUST STARTING HER CAREER AS A THERAPIST. SHE’S NOW THE DIRECTOR OF THE COUNSELING TEAM INTERNATIONAL, WHICH WORKS WITH FIRST RESPONDERS AND POLICE OFFICERS

NANCY REMEMBERS HOW IN THE 80S, OFFICERS WEREN’T VERY ENTHUSED TO TALK TO HER

Nancy: ​Sometimes I would hand them my business card and they literally right in front of me would throw it in the trash.

NANCY REMEMBERS THAT DJ WAS ALSO SKEPTICAL OF THERAPY. SHE COULD TELL HE WAS PUTTING UP A FRONT THAT HE WAS OK

Nancy: ​When I first met DJ my impression was that he was pretty macho.

HER GOAL WAS TO HELP POLICE PROCESS TRAUMATIC EVENTS, BUT ALSO TO KEEP THEM FROM DROPPING OUT OF THE FORCE ALL TOGETHER.

Nancy: ​Everyone thought D.J. would leave. Everybody, I mean, people never thought D.J. McCarty would stay a deputy.

TO TREAT DJ, NANCY HAD THEM REWATCH ROLF PARKE’S TRAINING VIDEO TOGETHER

Video

Nancy: ​So wo do a frame by frame, and as he tells his story, you stop him. And you know what? What were you thinking at the time? What were you feeling? What what's your reaction?

AS SHE WORKED WITH HIM, TO DJ’S SURPRISE, HE STARTED TO FEEL BETTER

DJ: ​It made you feel that you weren't crazy. It made you feel that you were human.

NANCY SAYS IN THE DECADES AFTER THE ROBBERY, MORE OFFICERS FELT COMFORTABLE GOING TO HER FOR HELP.

MUSIC

AT THE SAME TIME, THERE WAS ANOTHER SHIFT HAPPENING WITHIN THE POLICE FORCE. SWAT TEAMS WERE BECOMING MORE UBIQUITOUS.

BETWEEN THE MID-1980S AND THE LATE 1990S, THE NUMBER OF POLICE DEPARTMENTS IN THE U.S. WITH SWAT-STYLE TEAMS MORE THAN DOUBLED.

AND SO MORE OFFICERS ADOPTED THEIR MILITARY-LOOK AND TRAINING.

CLIPS OF SWAT TEAMS

BUT THIS INTEREST IN ACQUIRING MORE POWERFUL WEAPONRY WASN'T JUST LIMITED TO THE POLICE FORCE: IT WAS REFLECTED ACROSS THE GREATER U.S. CULTURE.

IN THE LATE 70S, THE NRA BECAME A POLITICAL FORCE ADVOCATING FOR GUN RIGHTS. HAVING FIREARMS HAD BECOME AN IDENTITY IN AND OF ITSELF.

Clip of NRA

AMERICAN GUNMAKERS PRODUCED AND IMPORTED 8.5 MILLION ASSAULT-STYLE RIFLES BETWEEN 1990 AND 2012.

AND AS MILITARY STYLE GUNS BECAME MORE COMMON IN THE STREETS - AND IN THE HANDS OF POLICE OFFICERS - NANCY BOHL-PENROD, DJ’S THERAPIST - SAW MORE AND MORE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN SHOOTINGS.

Nancy: ​The first year I, I started working, I think I went out on four incidents. Then the next year it was like nine and then it was 15. And then it was 48. And then a hundred. And then a hundred and five.

     As that increased, the community started to question their
     training and started questioning, you know, was that
     justified? Was it justified?

And there was a portion of the public that would always back them up, And there was a portion that didn't.

SHE NOTICED A NEW TENSION AROUND POLICING... ONE THAT SHOULD BE FAMILIAR TO MOST PEOPLE TODAY—A FIERCE DEBATE OVER WHETHER POLICE OFFICERS ARE JUSTIFIED IN THEIR USE OF FORCE.

A DIVISION FOUND IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE U.S. TODAY, INCLUDING AT RIVERSIDE, THE COUNTY WHERE THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY HAPPENED.

Residents: H​ ow much of the county’s budget, general and special, goes to law enforcement? It goes at the expense of people of color, black people and poor people and it needs to be addressed.

WHEN WE RETURN.

RIVERSIDE RESIDENTS SPEAK OUT.

Part 2 : Where we are today

WE’RE BACK.

Public Heariing: G​ avel ....I’d like to call this meeting to order

THIS IS AUDIO FROM A PUBLIC LISTENING SESSION ONE OF SEVERAL HELD IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY THIS PAST FALL. THE SAME COUNTY WHERE THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY HAPPENED JUST OVER 40 YEARS AGO.

A FEW PEOPLE WERE IN THE ROOM BUT MOSTLY, ONE BY ONE, COMMUNITY MEMBERS WERE CALLING IN ON THE PHONE.

Public Hearing: ​Can you hear me? Yes sir you got three minutes.

THEY DISCUSSED THE PANDEMIC AND ECONOMIC ISSUES. BUT IT WAS CLEAR THAT THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE’S CONCERNS WERE OVER POLICING IN RIVERSIDE COUNTY.

Public Hearing: ​I would like to talk about the vigil that was held for Breona Taylor last week, and we had a police presence that was very unreasonable, riot gear, we had drones overhead that were very loud, ultimately very disrespectful for the reason we were there

THE COMMENTS WERE LIKE PING-PONG — RESIDENTS RAISED CONCERNS, OTHER RESIDENTS FLUNG BACK RETORTS.

Public Hearing: ​What is being alleged by people that are reading pre-written out scripts and regurgitate a narrative that’s been spread around the country is ridiculous. We have one of the finest sheriff’s department in the country.

Music

THE RIVERSIDE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE AND THE RIVERSIDE POLICE DEPARTMENT WERE TWO OF THE PRIMARY AGENCIES THAT RESPONDED TO THE NORCO ROBBERY. THEY NOW RANK AS SOME OF THE WORST IN CALIFORNIA IN TERMS OF POLICE VIOLENCE, ACCORDING TO ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION CAMPAIGN ZERO. THAT’S BASED ON USE OF DEADLY FORCE AND CIVILIAN COMPLAINTS.

Public Hearing: ​I’ve witnessed the sheriffs harass homeless people instead of help them - they are overfunded and do nothing but install fear in people when they are around

A helicopter was flying over us - now let’s think how much money does it cost the county to get all this military equipment out - is that what we deserve, is that what black people deserve?

THE VERY THING OFFICERS FOUGHT FOR - MILITARY GRADE WEAPONS - IS NOW PART OF WHAT MANY RIVERSIDE CITIZENS SEE AS THE PROBLEM.

Music out

FOR MUCH OF THE PUBLIC POLICE MILITARIZATION MEANS SWAT TEAMS RESPONDING TO DRUG INFRACTIONS, DRONES AT VIGILS. THE POLICE COMING FULLY ARMED TO DELIVER NO-KNOCK WARRANTS.

WHEN PEOPLE HEAR THE TERM MILITARIZATION OF THE POLICE - IT CAN BRING TO MIND IMAGES LIKE THOSE COMING OUT OF FERGUSON MISSOURI AFTER THE KILLING OF MICHAEL BROWN.

CBS: ​For several night this week, this was ferguson missouri, tanks, combat gear, assault rifles, it looked like a military operation.

MUCH OF THE PUBLIC THINKS OF SWAT TEAMS RESPONDING TO DRUG INFRACTIONS, DRONES AT VIGILS, THE POLICE COMING FULLY ARMED TO DELIVER NO-KNOCK WARRANTS.

CBS: ​Police departments in the St. Lous area like those across the country are arming their officers with equipment once on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of it is free of charge or bought with federal grant money authorized by congress.

POLICE DEPARTMENTS TODAY HAVE ACCESS TO EQUIPMENT THAT TO MANY SEEMS LIKE OVERKILL. LIKE GRENADE LAUNCHERS AND MINE-RESISTANT ARMORED VEHICLES. RESEARCHERS POINT OUT THE DATA OF THESE PROGRAMS IS INCOMPLETE, AND SO IT’S DIFFICULT TO MEASURE ITS IMPACT.

MUSIC

BUT IF YOU TALK TO POLICE, AS WE HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT, THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. WHEN THEY THINK OF MILITARIZATION THEY THINK OF NEEDING TO RESPOND TO EVENTS LIKE THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY. OR THE SAN BERNARDINO MASS SHOOTING IN 2015, WHICH HAPPENED IN THE COUNTY JUST NEXT DOOR TO RIVERSIDE.

Archival: ​We were on the ground watching swat teams running back and forth yesterday.

A HUSBAND AND WIFE, SHOT AND KILLED 14 PEOPLE AND INJURED 22 OTHERS. AND THE POLICE STOPPED THE SUSPECTS BY KILLING THEM USING MILITARY LEVEL EQUIPMENT.

Archival: ​Police sent a robot into the home to sweep for explosives, farook and malik were killed after a police pursuit that ended in a shootout.

THE POLICE WE SPOKE TO BELIEVE IT’S VITAL THAT OFFICERS BE PREPARED FOR THE MOST EXTREME SITUATIONS. A MINDSET THAT STARTS BEFORE OFFICERS EVEN GET OUT INTO THE FIELD - A FEAR ROOTED IN THEIR TRAINING.

MusiquitaWE’LL BE RIGHT BACK. Part 3: The Legacy WE’RE BACK.

THE TRAINING VIDEO THAT DEPUTY SHERIFF ROLF PARKES PRODUCED WAS NOT JUST A RELIC OF THE 80S - IT’S STILL VIEWED BY POLICE TODAY - - ON YOUTUBE RATHER THAN ON A VHS TAPE.

Rosa: W​ hen I was at the police academy,that bank robbery looms very large and in sort of police legend.

THIS IS ROSA BROOKS, SHE’S A PROFESSOR AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY. SHE’S A SCHOLAR OF WAR AND THE USE OF VIOLENCE. IN 2015, SHE DID SOMETHING UNEXPECTED FOR A FULL TIME PROFESSOR.. SHE STARTED TRAINING TO BE A POLICE OFFICER.

Rosa: I​ was just really, really curious.

SHE HAD SPENT SO MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VIOLENCE AND JUSTICE FROM THE OUTSIDE OF ENFORCEMENT - SHE WANTED TO GET A MORE ACCURATE PICTURE.

Rosa: I​ just wanted to find out...so what is it like? What did cops learn about how did they get trained? What what do they talk about when the rest of us aren't there? So I guess it was just curiosity more than anything else.

ROSA WAS ON THE FORCE FOR FOUR YEARS AS A RESERVE POLICE OFFICER IN WASHINGTON D.C. AND ONE OF THE THINGS SHE PICKED UP ON IS THAT POLICING IS A PRETTY TOUGH JOB.

Rosa: T​ here are obviously times when, you know, you've got a big, scary guy with a poker​ a​ nd you've got to intervene and and doing all of these things at once, not to mention, you know, the the teenager who's having a fight with a parent, that the range of things that we expect cops to do and do well is is pretty mind boggling.

BUT ANOTHER THING SHE PICKED UP ON AFTER SHE BEGAN HER TRAINING WAS THAT THROUGH INSTANCES LIKE WATCHING THE NORCO 80 BANK

ROBBERY TRAINING VIDEO - OFFICERS WERE BEING SENT A VERY CLEAR MESSAGE ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO SOCIETY

Rosa: E​ veryone is trying to kill us. Any routine interaction could turn deadly for me at any time. The most important thing is that I be safe.

IN FACT THERE WAS A WHOLE GENRE OF POLICE VIDEOS DEDICATED TO LOOKING BACK AT MOMENTS LIKE THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY.

Rosa: I​ talk about the incredible amount of time that went into watching these, quote unquote, officer safety videos where you watched officers getting hurt or killed or attacked and then they'd be analyzed for, well, what what could this officer have done differently to prevent that from happening?

Montage of police brutality videos

MEANWHILE, THE REST OF AMERICA WAS SEEING VERY DIFFERENT VIDEOS ABOUT THE POLICE FORCE

Philando Castilo and Alton Sterling tape

BUT THESE INSTANCES WERE NOT DISCUSSED IN ROSAS’S TRAINING CLASSES, THEY FOCUSED ON OTHER ASPECTS OF THE JOB.

Rosa: I​ t was essentially tactical. It was OK, you need to memorize this list of vehicular offenses and you need to learn the nine property forms you must fill out for different types of property that comes into police possession.

And you need to do push ups and you need to shine your boots, but you don't need to be contemplating what it would mean to say that there is structural racism in American policing.

BLACK MEN IN THE US ARE 2.5X MORE LIKELY TO BE KILLED BY AMERICAN COPS THAN WHITE MEN. OVERALL - WHEN YOU ADJUST FOR POPULATION SIZE, POLICE IN THE UNITED STATES KILL PEOPLE AT 64X THE RATE OF POLICE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

SO ROSA WAS SURPRISED THAT HER TRAININGS HAD NO MENTION OF STATISTICS ABOUT CRIME AND ARREST PATTERNS. ESPECIALLY SINCE SHE WAS WORKING AS A POLICE OFFICER IN 2016 - IN THE MIDST OF THE HIGHLY PUBLICIZED KILLINGS OF ALTON STERLING AND PHILANDO CASTILE.

Rosa:​ It wasn't talked about at all.

So race came up only in the context of, you know, we as a police department are committed to treating everybody equally. Um, and it is a hate crime to have an assault or something be motivated by, in part, racial animus or animus based on religion or ethnicity or gender or whatever, a long, long list of of categories. So we got that that was about it, you know, so so we learned about race, only to be told that within the police department it didn't matter because we're all blue now.

ASC: ​They would say that?Rosa:​ Oh, yeah, yeah, you know, you bleed blue. I don't

care if you're black or white, you bleed blue.

THESE VIDEOS - THE NORCO TRAINING VIDEO AND THE OTHER ONES ON YOUTUBE, THEY’RE ONE WAY OF SOLIDIFYING A KIND OF BOND BETWEEN OFFICERS.

THAT THEY ARE OUT THERE TOGETHER IN THE FIELD FACING DANGER AGAINST AN ENEMY.

OFFICERS WERE EAGER TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCE OF THE ROBBERY AND CHASE -TELLING ME THAT THE PUBLIC DOESN’T UNDERSTAND HOW DANGEROUS THEIR JOB IS.

THE THING IS - POLICE WORK ​IS​ DANGEROUS - BUT IT IS LESS DANGEROUS TO BE A POLICE OFFICER THAN MANY OTHER PROFESSIONS.

Rosa: I​ t's more dangerous to be a logger or a roofer or sanitation truck worker than it is to be a cop. Now, granted, people aren't shooting at roofers and loggers and garbage truck guys. But even if you look at risk in terms of intentional harm, taxi drivers, Uber drivers, Lyft drivers have almost twice the rate of on the job deaths by homicide than police officers do. The perception of danger,

the perception of risk that cops have is disproportionate to the actual risk.

WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT EVENTS LIKE THE NORCO SHOOT-OUT ARE NOT DEEPLY TERRIFYING AND TRAUMATIC. BUT - THERE IS A CONSEQUENCE WHEN OFFICERS ARE TAUGHT TO WORRY THAT EVERY SCENARIO IS POTENTIALLY DEADLY

Rosa: I​ nevitably, that means that some police officers are going to see somebody reaching into their pocket or into their glove compartment and the rhetoric becomes that they're going to shoot somebody who did not pose a threat.

The rhetoric becomes our lives are the most important ones to preserve. And that, too, I think, coupled with other aspects of police training and police culture, can can lead in a sense to kind of transferring risk onto ordinary people and away from the police​.

AND BY AND LARGE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SUFFERED THE BRUNT OF THIS HAS BEEN BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES.

THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY WAS NOT ATTEMPTED BY BLACK MEN - BUT BY CONTRIBUTING TO MILITARIZATION IT DID HELP SHAPE HOW BLACK MEN AND COMMUNITIES OF COLOR ARE POLICED.

GIVEN THE DISPROPORTIONATE NUMBER OF BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE WHO ARE SHOT BY POLICE EVERY YEAR, IT’S HARD NOT TO NOTICE THAT EVEN IN THE NORCO ROBBERY THE TWO ROBBERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES HAPPENED TO BE THE TWO MEXICAN-AMERICAN MEN WHO WERE PART OF THE GROUP.

Music

ULTIMATELY WE DON’T KNOW WHAT COULD HAVE CHANGED THE OUTCOME OF THE NORCO ROBBERY. IF THE POLICE HAD BEEN ARMED WITH MORE POWERFUL WEAPONRY - THERE COULD HAVE BEEN FEWER DEATHS, OR THERE COULD HAVE BEEN MORE.

WE ARE LIVING THROUGH A MOMENT OF INTENSE ANXIETY IN AMERICAN HISTORY. THE PUBLIC IS CONCERNED ABOUT POLICE USE OF LETHAL FORCE. AND THERE IS ALSO A CONCERN ABOUT HOW EASY IT IS FOR ANYBODY --

INCLUDING EXTREMIST GROUPS -- TO PURCHASE VERY POWERFUL WEAPONS.

Clip of insurrection

A NUMBER OF THE INSURRECTIONISTS WHO WERE AT THE CAPITOL IN JANUARY ARE ALSO SELF-PROCLAIMED PREPPERS. SURVIVALISTS LIKE GEORGE SMITH AND THE OTHER ROBBERS.

TODAY, DOOMSDAY PREPPERS ARE NOT JUST AT THE FRINGES OF SOCIETY - THEY’VE ALSO BECOME A SORT OF POP CULTURE PHENOMENON. THERE ARE MULTIPLE REALITY SHOWS DEDICATED TO SHOWING THE LIVES OF SURVIVALISTS.

CLIP

THE MAJORITY OF THE PREPPERS ON THESE SHOWS ARE MIDDLE AGED WHITE MEN, AND YOU GET THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE PREPPING FOR THEIR FANTASY RATHER THAN THEIR FEARS.

A RETURN TO A WORLD WHERE CERTAIN BEHAVIORS THAT HAVE BEEN TRADITIONALLY LINKED TO MASCULINITY LIKE BUILDING AND HUNTING - WOULD PUT THEM BACK AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN SO TO SPEAK. SKILLS THAT ARE NOT NEEDED TO SURVIVE IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD TODAY.

music

IN THE CASE OF NORCO - GEORGE SMITH’S SURVIVALISM, HIS QUEST TO FEEL POWERFUL AND PREPARE AGAINST DISASTER, ACTUALLY​ BROUGHT DISASTER UPON HIS LIFE, HIS FRIENDS’, AND HIS FAMILY’s. AS WELL AS THE FAMILY OF JIM EVANS.

MUSIC

GEORGE’S DAUGHTER, MONICA MILLER, RECALLS A LIFETIME OF HAVING TO BE HER DAD’S SUPPORT SYSTEM. WAITING FOR HOURS IN LINE AS A CHILD TO VISIT HIM AFTER HE WAS INCARCERATED AND PAYING FOR THE PRISON’S EXPENSIVE FOOD AND OTHER ITEMS. A SITUATION SHE DIDN’T CHOOSE,

Monica:​ For every 50 people visiting prison on a given day, you're going to see one man. The rest are women.

Monica: ​And they're their mothers, their sisters, their wives, their girlfriends, their daughters. They're disproportionately people of color.​ A​ nd they're they're trying to to support families outside of prison and inside of prison.

ASC: ​Like, is there anything you want to hear from your dad?

Monica: ​That I want to hear? Yeah. For me personally, I mean. Yeah, I no, there I have my -My father has apologized to me. Numerous times. We’ve talked about it all. I guess that's the whole point is we can't change it. And and I know that. And he knows that. And so as many times as I've gotten angry or wanted him to say something else or something more. I mean, that's kind of where we always go back to. If he could change it, he would. If I could change it, I would.

Unfortunately, we can't.

WHEN GEORGE TRIED TO PREPARE FOR THE COLLAPSE OF SOCIETY - FOR THE WORST POSSIBLE SCENARIO, HIS OVERREACTION, LED TO CATASTROPHE.

WHAT WE HAVE SEEN FROM THE EVENTS OF THE NORCO BANK ROBBERY, AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS, IS THAT THERE IS A RISK IN PREPARING FOR THE EXTREME. IN BOTH SURVIVALIST THINKING AND IN THE WAY POLICE ARE TRAINED.

IF ALL YOU SEE ARE POTENTIAL THREATS, POTENTIAL CRISES ALL AROUND YOU. YOU RISK OVERREACTING TO DANGER. SOMETIMES EVEN HARMING THE PEOPLE YOU’RE MEANT TO PROTECT.

George:​ I just got overcautious is all. Made grenades and stuff. But the whole plan in itself was to rule that all out. And it happened.

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.

Special thanks to Curt Roschiller, Maggie Freleng, Casey Kelly, Michael Leo Owens, and Pete Kraska.

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

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 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!

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