Chapter 2: The Firefight
A quick warning: Some of the series includes descriptions of graphic violence PRE-ROLL
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.
Andrew: When that went off. Everybody listened because something hot is going to be put over the radio.
Radio: R iverside to Norco units. Have a 211 in progress. Security Pacific Bank at 4th and Hammner
Andrew: Something bad is happening
Radio: T he 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: O fficer 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: D id 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: W here 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.
Andrew: Can you hear me?
ASC: Y eah 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: D id 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.
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.
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.
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 going out
George: I should’ve made it a minute and 30 instead of 2 minutes. I f***d up.
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 DOVE INTO 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
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
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.
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: Y ou 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: P retty 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: T hey were all wearing ski masks in army fatigues. You know.
ALL OF A SUDDEN, MIKE SAW ONE OF THE SUSPECTS SPOT
Mike: I was 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: I mean 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: I rolled 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.
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.
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: T ied 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: I just 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: A nd 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.
THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE ROBBERS AND THE POLICE WAS ONLY GETTING STARTED. BUT THERE WAS ALREADY IRREVOCABLE LOSS.
Detective: W ho got killed at the bank? George: Billy.
Detective: B illy? 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: H e was the driver of the van? George: And one of my best friends. Yes.
NEXT WEEK ON NORCO80 ---
Chris: N obody’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.
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