Phillips hurriedly turned East on to Archwood Street and immediately turned his body at an oblique angle, his feet moved him East in a side stepping motion but his upper body faced west, possibly looking back towards Haynes and Whitfield"s cruisers that lay shattered in the Laurel Canyon boulevard intersection.
In the passing of a single one second timeframe two events happened that require further examination.
The first was Phillips appeared to lurch forward, bending at the waist, an unnatural body movement for the moment. In the 1997 "Sons & Robbers" article produced by Rolling Stone and authored by Peter Wilkinson Phillips father alludes to his son being struck by police gunfire at that exact moment; and he was correct.
The round that struck him clipped the neck hemline of his body armour and finding minimal resistance passed completely through the middle trapezius muscle. Although undoubtedly painful this "through and through" wound exited his body without impacting any major nerve or blood vessels. Phillips appears to have taken little notice.
A second round would strike Phillips in a near identical spot only seconds later, this one though would have had much further reaching consequences had the gunfight endured.
The second point in this single second timeframe that we must touch upon is something often misunderstood, and certainly was by ourselves until some video and audio from separate sources was overlaid my partner in research.
The distance between the position of Phillips hasty retreat from the Bank of America north parking lot and the position of the Telemundo 52 reporters is roughly 390feet.
As Phillips straightened his posture and stepped eastwards towards Agnes Ave back in the Hughes parking lot Telemundo reporter Jorge Viera was giving a live update to his cameraman Juan Guerra. A loud ding is heard in the background, remarked upon by both reporters. The assumption by any who watch the video is that this was a wild round from Phillips given that we know he was firing up to and including the very second before this incident. By overlaying the audio from the Telemundo crew's camera and the aerial footage taken by Robert Tur we can clearly see that the round that struck the steel pole no more than three feet from Viera's back was categorically NOT fired by Phillips. He was in fact facing the opposite direction and was not, for that second engaging any targets. This was an errant police round, whose impact can still be seen to this day.
As Phillips straightened and took steps to make it to concealment behind the Astro cab and trailer he appears to have become fixated on somebody on the east side of Archwood.
As he stepped behind the end of the trailer he took a second round through the right shoulder. At this point it is unknown who fired that particular shot.
The second round that stuck Phillips was maybe an inch lower than the first, it first broke his right collar bone then completely severed his subclavian artery before fracturing his shoulder blade and deflecting downward within the tissues of his back muscles. The first fatal wound had been inflicted; a best guess scenario says that he would have had roughly thirty minutes to live from this point. Quite how cognisant Phillips was of the severity of this wound is obviously unknown. Did it play a part in the fateful decision he was to make less than two minutes later? Maybe.
Phillips took a knee at the rear of the trailer and set to work trying to pull the charging handle of the Norinco to the rear to release the stoppage and in that one simple action sealed his fate.
The stoppage was an unusual one, but not one unheard of. The weapon had "stovepiped"; a fired casing had failed to eject from the rifle fully and had become hung up under the left side rail within the receiver.
Physical manipulation of this hung up casing should have freed it, enabling the rifle to become operational again. For a man whose calculated thinking had been so prevalent in the previous thirty plus minutes it is his next action that is seen as quite a remarkable departure.
He tried racking the rifle, not once, not twice, but three separate times.
Had the shot through the subclavian artery panicked him? Quite possibly.
Racking the rifle with the stovepipe still in place was the 'quick and dirty' method of attempting to clear it, hoping that the bolt's rearward travel would free the casing thus allowing it to drop free from the ejection port. The problem was not the bolt which had the expended casing trapped, the left rail did and racking the bolt did nothing but compound the problem.
The first 'rack' stripped a fresh round from the top of the feed well of the one hundred round Chinese drum magazine and drove it underneath the jammed casing, rendering the rifle completely useless without prompt field stripping. It must be noted that from crime scene photos that it does look like somebody has attempted to drop the drum magazine out of the magazine well, although whether this was an action performed by Phillips or by officers attempting to make the weapon safe we do not know.
The following two 'racks' did nothing more than make the jam tighter and tighter. Phillips had messed up.
The question remains as to why the rifle stovepiped in the first place.
There are several possible reasons for this jam to occur, ranging from poor handling of the weapon, an underfilled cartridge or a cartridge filled with a poor quality propellant, to mechanical failure, and it is to this last possibility that we turn our scrutiny.
Rerunning the available video (again and again and again ad nauseum) we see that on Phillips final walk from the burgundy car to the rear of the Astro trailer that the s1 is kicking casings out in a rather erratic fashion, some being flung out in the usual strong manner at a near 45° angle to the rifle's axis; some barely clearing the ejection port. In one instance the rifle appears to throw an expended casing nearly vertically. Whilst all three elements that could potentially cause the failure may be in play here we are almost certain that the rifle's two known stoppages came down to mechanical failure, the $3 extractor spring and the $10 extractor itself would be the primary culprits. Unfortunately requests to the LAPD to view Star Sach's firearms report have been met with silence and the BATFE apparently have no copy in their own file (as a matter of note the BATFE apparently hold no file on this incident whatsoever).
Phillips movement to the rear of the trailer placed a greater distance and hard cover between him and officers on Agnes, the closest officers on Laurel were at least double the distance away from him than those now behind him. He also had the whole length of Brentlinger's angled cruiser in front of him providing both concealment and hard cover. The decision to move to this location does not come across as a man totally immersed in panic but of one who recognised and moved to the strongest position available to him at that moment.
In the brief seconds Phillips knelt at the rear of the trailer he would have come to realise he needed time to try and remedy the problem. Yet as he was soon to discover this problem was not his only problem.
As Matasareanu limped the wounded Chevrolet alongside the Astro Officer Conrado Torrez moved forward from the side of the house to Matasareanu's left side. He raised his Beretta service pistol and loosed off twelve shots in rapid succession.
Several of the rounds struck the car, two passing through the now missing driver's window, missing Matasareanu by scant inches, one clipped the rear view mirror, another starred the windshield from the inside. Matasareanu panicked, and dove to his right almost lying along the bench seat. In his left hand he still held the steering wheel and as he moved he pulled down and to the right on it, causing the wounded Celebrity to veer into and then bounce off the curb at the corner of Archwood and Agnes and trundle through the intersection before finally coming to half way down the block between Agnes and Ben Ave.
Phillips and Matasareanu were now separated. A queer tide of fate had seen them split as an operational force and one would now have to fight his way to the other. Yet that opportunity was to be denied them due mostly to the fact that officers who had been in the rear yard with the telegraph pole now being active on Agnes Avenue and less than one hundred feet from the intersection.
Sitting in an unmarked 'dual purpose' burgundy Crown Victoria were two officers and two detectives. Kevin Harley, Vincent Bancroft, and John Caprarelli amongst them.
As Bancroft crawled the Crown Vic slowly northwards toward the intersection the white Chevy came barrelling through, trunk flapping and the sound of Torrez gunfire chasing it. Bancroft goosed the unmarked car forward bringing it level with the intersection. All eyes were on the bandit Chevy as it slowed to a stop 230ft away. All except one person's.
John Caprarelli, fifteen years on the force at the time of this event, looked left as they rolled into the intersection. A pre-programmed response to look for oncoming traffic, and as he did he noticed something dark moving around under the trailer: Larry Phillips.
Before the car stopped Caprarelli had exited the back door and was moving across Agnes. When he reached the corner he stood no more than thirty five feet away from Phillips who had been under the trailer for approximately fifteen seconds. Officer Caprarelli had a somewhat clear view of Phillips back, now he decided would be a good time for this nonsense to stop. Raising his own Beretta 92 he squeezed off six shots in under 1.8 seconds. Even today he cannot say how many of his shots hit Phillips but it is likely that at least a couple, if not more, found their mark on the armored target.
Phillips only reaction was to slowly turn, he was still holding the Norinco.
Caprarelli beat a hasty retreat, hurdling a fire hydrant in the process and crossed back over Agnes to join Detective Ranshaw and two other officers that were in that location.
As he rounded the Cadillac El Dorado and the brand new Ford Aerostar van that the officers were concealed behind he noticed Detective Bancroft returning to the burgundy Crown Vic after putting four shots from a Ithaca Model 37 shotgun into the stationary bandit Chevrolet.
Bancroft had exited the unmarked vehicle, unaware of Phillips presence to his left and had unloaded on the Celebrity. One charge hit the right rear tyre, one went into the cabin of the vehicle after passing through the open trunk lid, and at least three pellets of the third shot bounced off the asphalt and damaged the underside of the Chevy. One punctured the spare wheel well, one struck the rear axle and a third holed the gas tank.
He would call on scene a shade under sixty seconds before Phillips went down. Could he have stopped Phillips? He certainly had the appropriate equipment but from the position he was to eventually take up it is unlikely he would have had a clear line of sight to Phillips final position (despite repeated attempts to persuade the property company to allow us roof access to check the sightlines we have so far had no luck). Yet this was a position that was used some time later to cover the SWAT team's approach to the bank via the northwest door on Laurel Canyon. There was certainly the possibility that a clear shot could have been made if Montague was sited further north along the roof of the Hughes market; it would all be based on the fact that he had actually made it up to the roof at this point though, which doesn't appear to be the case.
Back on Archwood Phillips exited from under the trailer he reached inside his jacket and drawing from a Galco 'Miami Classic' shoulder holster under his left armpit he produced a stainless steel Beretta 92. A weapon that apart from its fancy finish was identical to that carried by many of the officers responding that day.
It was enough to make him fumble and drop the Beretta which may be testament to how physically drained he was at this point. The pistol tumbled to the floor, bouncing off his right boot before coming to rest in the dust between his feet. Given the lack of penetration of this wound we believe that this wound was caused by a bullet fired from Phillips left side by Officer Torrez which ricochet back from the wall at Phillips right side losing most of its kinetic energy in the process (thus explaining the minimal wound it caused), several other rounds are also seen behaving in this manner seconds before this wound occurs.
Phillips backed up a half step, bent at the waist, the H&K magazine fell from his left hand into the dust at his feet. With his damaged left hand he retrieved his sidearm (Note: Phillips was naturally right handed, why then did he not pick up the Beretta with that hand?)
Was the action of extending that arm with the associated shoulder wounds just too painful? A little hard to believe since he had been so fast to raise the pistol with the same arm only seconds previous. Did he believe the injury that caused him to drop the pistol was more serious than it actually was? If this was the case and he chose to use his badly damaged left hand rather than grazed right hand it may go to point toward his state of mind, of just how mentally exhausted he was at this point.
He stood, angled his body south east and slightly facing away from the Agnes officers, his right arm hung limp at his side, with his left hand he held the Beretta with its muzzle pressed under his chin at an awkward angle.
Two seconds later he pulled the trigger for the final time.
The 9mm JHP round entered Phillips oral cavity somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 feet per second, the gases escaping the muzzle of the pistol blew under the woollen ski mask, momentarily distorting its shape. The copper coated projectile zipped easily through the skin underneath the jaw, entering the rear of the oral cavity and blowing a 2 inch long stellate wound through the tongue.
Before the wounded blood vessels in the tongue had a chance to respond to the injury the bullet continued onward, entering the lower rear cranial cavity, impacting first through the left cerebellum causing immediate loss of balance and coordination then into and through the left occipital lobe causing instant blindness before striking the skull and blowing an L-shaped exit wound in the bone.
The circling helicopters caught the shot on tape, the pink mist of atomized blood hanging in the air for barely a second before being dispersed on the breeze.
Phillips dropped to his knees like he had been pole-axed, his body already heavy and loose, the pistol tumbled from his nerveless fingers and ended up in the dust by his right foot.
Larry Eugene Phillips Jr, father, son, husband, brother....bankrobber and suspected murderer, was dead. He had lived 26 years, 5 months and 8 days.
The officers who had engaged him in the final standoff waited cautiously, unsure as to whether he was permanently down or whether he was playing possum, after a short delay they began to converge on his body. Officer Caprarelli has a good story to tell on the reason for the cautious approach but I will not plagiarise his work, that story can be found in his memoirs.
Phillips was rolled on to his stomach and then left side and after a brief struggle to get his arms behind his back Officer Brentlinger's handcuffs were locked closed around his wrists by Officers Flores and Eck. Flores who was also trained as a paramedic removed Phillips ski mask and noted the gunshot exit wound to the top of Phillips head, that his skin was pale, pupils were fixed and dilated, and that no vital signs were present. Flores also noted that Phillips was bleeding heavily from multiple wounds.
Phillips body was left guarded by several officers.
Across the Archwood/Agnes intersection Barry, the resident who had complained about the garbage truck the night before, stuck his head out of his front door wondering if it was all over. He had been trapped inside his house with his South American cleaning lady. She had been very offhand with the whole event, wanting to leave stating 'this happens in my country all the time', Barry had to keep convincing her to not go outside and remain on the floor. When officers approached Barry and asked him for a sheet to cover Phillips body, Barry refused, not wanting to give out his wife's linens to cover a man who had bought so much destruction to their neighbourhood.
Phillips would eventually be shrouded from view by a clear plastic tarpaulin.
At the moment of Larry Phillips suicide Emil Matasareanu, situated between Ben Avenue and Gentry Avenue, was coaxing the Chevrolet along the centre of the road, moving at approximately ten miles per hour. No mistake should be made in believing that he was waiting around for his cohort to reach him, Detective Bancroft's shotgun had put paid to any idea he may have had that he and Phillips may be able to be reunited. The 530feet that separated the bank robbers was only growing in size; Matasareanu was running for his life, only he didn't quite know it, not yet.
Within the next six minutes we can see his behaviour turn from a methodical almost lackadaisical attempt to flee into the actions of a cornered and wounded bull. Before the LAPD, and one officer in particular, realised that they may just have the upper hand Matasareanu would put scores of additional lives at risk, attempt to gun down two civilians and wind up in a carjacking that went so dramatically wrong for him that it seemed almost fated.
With the trunk to the Chevy still open, three tyres flattened and the bodywork and glass punctured by gunfire over the previous thirty eight minutes Matasareanu pushed the wounded vehicle, trying to make distance between himself and the swarm of uniforms he knew was behind him. As he reached the intersection of Agnes and Gentry he didn't slow, he rolled straight through; causing civilian traffic which still flowed through the maze of side streets around the bank to come to a rapid halt. As he crossed Gentry he had one thought on his mind, a new vehicle and behind the GMC Astro recovery truck that faced him in the opposite lane he believed he had found what he searched for.
He cut the wheel to the left and pulled across the front of a red Ford Tempo. The Tempo driver presumably seeing the bullet starred windshield and the masked face behind it wasted no time and threw his vehicle into reverse. As the Tempo withdrew Matasareanu inexplicably exited the Celebrity from the passenger door. Standing behind the open door he waved at the Tempo to come back, laughable given the circumstances. Body armour, ski mask, full auto rifle, a car shot full of holes, who in their right mind would willingly stop let alone return to such a scene?
As the driver of the Tempo executed a slow three point turn approximately sixty feet from where the masked gunman stood Matasareanu raised the Norinco and sent a single round after it. It is unknown where that round landed but no injuries have ever been reported.
"He's out of the car and shooting at civilians" - Officer Charles D. Perriguey
Seeing the Tempo depart Matasareanu now entered a phase that can only be described as bizarre. The need to flee was pressing, and although it would have done him no good with all the air coverage above him instead of choosing this action he instead wasted valuable seconds.
He turned to face east, looking back along Archwood toward where he had last seen Phillips. The road between the two locations rises only slightly but certainly not enough to obscure the view back towards Laurel Canyon Blvd. Having stood in the very same spot I can confirm that there was a very high probability that Matasareanu saw the body of his friend lying immobile in the dirt. With no officers close to Phillips body at this point (the Agnes officers had yet to make their approach) Matasareanu would have only been able to infer one thing that his cohort was down for good. He was now, truly alone.
For eight long seconds he stood looking east before turning and closing the door with his right hand and limping around the front of the car toward the driver's door. Quite why he never re-entered via the passenger door he climbed out of is unknown. Bizarre behaviour.
As he moved around the front of the Chevy he was limping heavily, keeping weight off his right leg; the right leg that had been grazed by a bullet either in the North Lot or on his approach to that area. The wound was trifling, little more than a scratch yet he limped heavily. Had the psychological impact of being shot done him more damage than the actual bullets themselves?
As he rounded the front of the car he raised his right hand to the left side of his chest, appearing to tap a closed fist above his heart. A final salute to the man whom he had called a friend? A man that had helped him on the road to destruction. There is no other explanation we can think of that would justify these two short and sharp movements from him.
Once back in the car he waited a further thirteen seconds, door ajar and unbelievably doing nothing. At 1500ft above him Perriguey in AIR8 and at least two news helicopters followed his movements, or lack of them at this point, very closely. At ground level officers were closing in, filtering through side streets, converging on the Chevy, Bancroft and Harley had pulled the Crown Vic to the curb and watched the Chevy knowing that if they got too close to it that the occupant was armed with automatic weapons and was willing to use them.
Eventually Matasareanu dropped the Chevy into drive, fuel spilling from the holed gas tank and the badly wounded vehicle yet again lurched and bumped its way east along Archwood. From the vantage point of the helicopters it was clear this vehicle was not going to make it much further. There were two options open to Matasareanu at this time; surrender or engage in another civilian encounter to hijack a vehicle.
He would choose option number two.
The unlucky recipient of that fated meeting which Matasareanu chose to initiate was Bill Marr, a burly and affable aerospace engineer who worked out of Van Nuys airport. He had left his home in Burbank that morning and was blissfully unaware of the situation unfolding in North Hollywood. As he turned on to Van Owen he noticed police tape sealing off the road near Radford, turning his truck around he decided to cut through the side streets and turned right on to Morella Avenue making his way toward Archwood. He was less than two minutes away from 'meeting' Emil Matasareanu and his abortive escape attempt.
Matasareanu slowed briefly as he approached Radford, letting a vehicle pass from his left side before he pulled out into traffic and swerving across the road to try and block off a vehicle approaching from his right. At the last moment he appeared to change his mind maybe realising that he would have to block the hijack with his own vehicle and if successful then he would then have to drive around the abandoned Celebrity to get away. What he needed was a vehicle that had stopped laterally to him. Escape would be easier that way.
He swung the Celebrity back on to its previous eastward course along Archwood.
Driving past two more occupied civilian vehicles he sped up somewhat until he reached a point just short of Hinds Avenue, where he stopped the battered Celebrity for a further fourteen seconds. His thinking here is pretty easy to interpret. He would wait until a vehicle crossed into the Hinds/Archwood intersection heading west, he would bump the target vehicle and when it stopped he would perform the carjacking. Doing it at this location would allow him enough space to then manoeuvre the fresh vehicle with ease. This shows a level of clarity on Matasareanu's part; his dash for freedom, although it probably required it at this point, was not headlong and full of panic. He was still making conscious choices about his movements, how logical those choices were is for you to decide.
Ahead of him a string of four vehicles approached, he inched the car forward letting the first vehicle pass and as the Chevy reached near centre of the Hinds intersection he swung the wheel hard left and impacted with a green sedan.
The sedan driver did exactly what Matasareanu wanted and jammed on his brakes. One can only imagine the look of surprise when the driver got an eyeful of the bullet ridden Celebrity and the masked face behind the wheel.
It mattered little though, Matasareanu had changed his mind. Approaching someway behind the green sedan came Bill Marr's beige 1962 Jeep Gladiator. Before the sedan driver had time to react further Matasareanu had the Chevy rolling again, pointing it this time squarely at Marr's truck whilst blocking the road.
It is at this point we hand over the recall of the event to a piece of video. An interview made by Chris de la Torre with Bill Marr back in 2007 for an independent film project.
Our humble thanks go out to both Chris and Mr Marr for allowing us to publically share this personal interview, there was after all no-one better placed to tell this part of the event than Bill Marr himself. The video that follows is part of the raw footage filmed for Chris's film project and not representative of his finished product.
The video above detailing the events happening between Hinds and Morella (incorrectly reported by Perriguey in AIR8 as happening between Radford and Hinds) yet to continue our story we must backtrack in the timeline almost two minutes.
As Marr sat in his truck, about to engage in a very one sided confrontation with Matasareanu, further west along Archwood two significant events were unfolding.
With Phillips taken into custody, the Agnes officers formed a lose cordon around that particular part of the scene. A slick top black and white turned onto Archwood, inside were three SWAT officers in the form of Don Anderson (driver), Steve Gomez (front passenger) and Richard Massa (rear passenger). The vehicle is said to have stopped at the cordon by Phillips body and one of the passengers asked as to the location of any further suspects, they were pointed down the street being told the Chevy had departed in that direction.
The Caprice headed east.
AT1440, the Armored Transport truck commandeered by LAPD officers including SWAT officer Weireter headed north on Laurel Canyon, its mission to finally find and extract the grievously injured Martin Whitfield.
An officer who had fought and held Phillips attention for so long from the Del Taco restaurant area, including placing a shot into his trauma plate and missing his head by scant inches, had crossed Laurel and placed his hand on Whitfield's chest. Whitfield's eyes opened, out of the fight but still in the land of the living. AT1440 pulled up alongside them and Whitfield was quickly bundled into the rear of the truck. The need to get him to the casualty collection area at Victory Boulevard was obvious.
As AT1440 swung around, preparing to run straight back down Laurel they encountered the trio of Horen, Golding and Fisher still huddled behind Sgt. Haynes wreck of a cruiser. The Ford F700 pulled up behind them and Weireter was out of the side door, AR15 raised ready for any further threat that may show itself from the bank. All three were bundled rather unceremoniously into the back of the crowded truck, Fisher bleeding from her foot wound and Horen bleeding extensively from not only one obvious gunshot wound to the right arm but six additional wounds caused by shrapnel. Photographer Gene Blevins would capture this picture of their rescue, one of many iconic photographs to be taken that day.
1300ft to the east and Matasareanu sat in Marr's truck. Bill Marr crouched on the porch with the driver of the second vehicle. Both men had banged on the front door of this house, looking to get off the street. Nobody had answered; they believed no one was home. Yet somebody was. Sixty two year old Dora Lubjensky had seen the bloodied and pamicked Marr bound up the steps to her porch and begin hammering on her door whilst mopping blood from his face with his cap. She had called 911, believing he might be a suspect from the robbery less than a half mile away. The 911 dispatcher had told her not to answer the door and units would respond. For the foreseeable future Marr was stuck outside.
103ft away in the street the odometer of the crippled Chevrolet Celebrity read 96,633 miles, it would never move under its own power again.
Matasareanu transferred a so far unseen and unused weapon from the open trunk of the Chevy to the front seat of Marr's truck. As he turned he paused and raised the Norinco, firing a single round westward along Archwood at targets unknown.
The transferred second rifle that would be his last weapon of choice with which to assault the neighbourhood. The Bushmaster XM15E2S had started it's life as a civilian legal rifle but had been converted somewhere along the way to an illegal full auto. It had had its original handguards swapped out to M16A1 variants and may have had the original stock removed and been retrofitted with a four or six stop collapsible stock (although it must be noted that this type of rifle does also come with this type of stock from the factory the stock seen on the recovered rifle appears minutely different to the one used by Bushmaster). Hanging from the belly of the rifle was a Beta-C 100 round dual snail drum magazine.
What Matasareanu was about to face would be three weapons of similar ilk, although not sporting the extended magazine. What was to follow was nothing short of remarkable.
As Matasareanu sat in Marr's truck the slick top traversed Archwood at a substantial speed, as it crossed over the Radford Avenue intersection a second police vehicle, heading north turned on to Archwood also. Bancroft and Harley were also in the background. Officers were also moving up on foot. Matasareanu's world was rapidly shrinking.
The other members of the SWAT vehicle cannot recall Anderson sharing his plan of action; he pointed the Caprice at the front of Marr's truck and approached at a swift speed. A 1998 report states that Anderson had seen the bullet struck window of the JEEP and believed that they had an injured civilian in the cab; it was apparently only when Matasareanu made a break for it they realised that they were confronted by the second suspect.
Matasareanu looked up (we believe he must have been looking down before this point probably trying to figure out how to get the Gladiator to move or he would have seen the approaching threat much earlier). Seeing the hard charging SWAT vehicle and possibly the one turning onto Archwood from Radford he flung open the truck's door and made a hurried beeline for the front of the Celebrity, no sign of his previous limp existed.
Across the street, fifty feet away, local resident Noubar Torrossian had been watching the mayhem happening just up the road on Laurel on the news. He decided to go outside for a cigarette and as he did he was greeted with the sight of the Chevrolet he had been watching on the news parked a stone's throw from his house. He beat a hasty retreat back inside, thoughts of a cigarette forgotten and collecting his young granddaughter he hunkered down at the end of his sofa. Gunfire seemed like it would be imminent, he was not wrong.
Emil Matasareanu had choices, every step of the way he had had choices yet those he chose to make were what would seem in retrospect, the wrong ones. His final chance to end the morning's madness was upon him and yet again he took the path of resistance. When he looked up and saw Anderson's cruiser bearing down on him he was presented with an option. All he had to do was climb out of the truck with his hands up and it would have all been over. His stay in prison would have been lengthy and most probably unpleasant, yet surrender was not yet an ideal he was capable of complying with and that would cost both him and his family dearly.
As Matasareanu retreated to the front of the battered Celebrity Anderson turned the wheel at the last moment and bought the Caprice to a halt angled across the front of Marr's truck. The distance between SWAT officers and suspect was less than thirty feet, pistol range. Close combat with long arms was going to get ugly.
As Matasareanu rounded the front drivers side of the Chevy's hood Steve Gomez in the passenger seat of the black and white opened fire from inside his vehicle. His first round, at what must have been vague and mobile target punched through the front and rear windows of Marr's truck, missing Matasareanu by approximately five feet.
Almost instantaneously Matasareanu, now half draped over the hood of the Chevy and half kneeling opened fire through his own windshield. For a little over five seconds he held down the trigger on the XM15 blindly spraying .223 calibre rounds through his own car.
Gomez corrected his aim and with Matasareanu hunkered down low in front of the Chevy his sight picture must have been limited, if he had one at all. The intention was not a surgical shot at this point though; it was suppressive fire to keep the suspect pinned in place whilst they exited the vehicle.
Anderson exited the Caprice and moved to the rear quarter of the vehicle, through the missing drivers window and the shattered windshield of the Celebrity he could see the dark form of Matasareanu hunched over the hood.
As Massa exited and Gomez wriggled on his back along the front seats trying to get out Anderson raised his own rifle and placed two controlled shots into Matasareanu's centre mass.
The wounded and hemmed in gunman slid down the hood and momentarily out of view, only to pop up again seconds later. With a cop's typical dark humor Anderson recalled 'Well maybe I'm the world's worst shot'. He wasn't.
The bullet resistant vest would have been pierced easily by the CAR15 rounds fired at him, yet Anderson's aim had been so good that he had hit the one thing that saved the bank robber. The steel trauma plate.
It would appear that it was at this point that Anderson's rifle jammed and Massa swapped places with him whilst he cleared his weapon.
Inspiration struck and Anderson realised that by firing under the vehicles they could strike at the unprotected legs of the suspect.
What followed makes for grim reading, it should in no way be seen as a indictment on the SWAT officers actions, Matasareanu was fully at fault for the wounds he was about to receive. Remember, he could have surrendered at any time.
One of the first shots fired under the vehicles broke his left leg just below the knee. Matasareanu's lower body at this point was oriented with his left knee down and lower left leg lateral to the asphalt. The bullet entered to the left of the kneecap, shattering the joint and disintegrating (the autopsy report describes the x-ray of the knee as a snowstorm of bone and lead fragments) before blowing out two large exit holes in the rear of the knee.
A horrific and debilitating wound, yet Matasareanu still refused to quit.
Still on one knee he propped himself against the hood of the Chevrolet and continued to fire, this time angling his rounds through the windshield toward the south curb. Whether this was intentional or not is unknown, there was an officer situated very close to him behind a white vehicle and was engaging him with his sidearm (believed to be Sgt Sonny 'Israel' Medina). It appears unlikely that Matasareanu had line of sight to this officer and was more likely reacting blindly to incoming rounds.
Dissecting this choreography take a large amount of 'paper space' yet the events described here lasted only brief seconds, Matasareanu would take hit after hit after hit in a very short timeline.
The next strikes to the crouched gunman came in a series of three strikes to his left thigh. One was a through and through to the outside of his thigh, the next two would prove to be contributory to Matasareanu's demise less than seventy minutes later.
He turned his body, now parallel to the front of the Celebrity's hood (important to note due to the entrance of the following gunshot), the XM15 still held in his right hand.
A fourth wound was imminent.
With his left leg twisted awkwardly under him he was again stung into action. Raising the rifle above the level of the hood he fired the first shots though the left side of the windshield, toward anyone on the south side of the street, he rapidly traversed the rifle in a 140 degree arc the rifle continuing to spit .223 at a rate of ten rounds a second. The muzzle crossed the point where it was facing (albeit through Marr's abandoned truck) the SWAT vehicle. After this brief burst he went to ground again, hunkered down in front of the Celebrity. His world had become a very small place, and yet gunfire continued to rain in on him.
Yet another round found him, prompting a violent reaction. His body span to the right, his finger tensed on the trigger sending three rounds from the barrel. One struck the asphalt short of the northern curb, one struck the curb and the third impacted on the trunk of a tree on the median.
Matasareanu was close to the end, his XM15 shot nearly dry, no sidearm and certainly no possibility of replenishing his ammunition for the only rifle he had with him, before he would quit he would send one final salvo towards officers.
Instantly after the wild shots that struck the curb left the barrel he figured out where he was being shot from and lowering the XM15 he pointed it, unsighted, under Marr's truck, toward the SWAT officers and pulled the trigger. A large volume of dust and debris can be seen billowing out from under the driver's side of the Jeep which leads us to believe that the rounds impacted with the underside of the truck rather than finding their way to their intended destination.
Whilst Matasareanu fired blindly under the vehicles one officer, Steve Gomez was sighted in and watching the small amount of the gunman's body that he could see. He later described knowing that he had to separate the gunman from his weapon and as Matasareanu tried to blindly score hits under the vehicles Gomez saw his opportunity and fired.
A minimum of three rounds found Matasareanu's forearm, causing considerable devastation (one exit wound was measured at six inches in length, although the forearm bone was not struck) with the possibility of a fourth entering and exiting his right thumb.
Finally, after well over forty three minutes of driven chaos the second gunman was done.
Before we bring to a close the telling of this long, eventful, tragic and ultimately senseless act of shameless violence let us examine Matasareanu's input.
A casual glance at the video shows two men, of similar stature, wearing similar clothes, brandishing identical weapons acting in concert within the commission of a single crime.
It is an understandable, albeit rather shallow assumption to believe that their ideologies must therefore be identical right?
We believe that nothing could be further from the truth.
Once wounded in or around the North Lot Matasareanu's input into taking the fight to responding officers all but ended. He sought the sanctuary of the Chevrolet. Phillips continued to fight, despite being wounded multiple times.
Where Phillips chose to end his own life after finding himself in an impossible situation, Matasareanu chose, belatedly, to cede that he had been beaten. He placed a value on what remained of his life, Phillips gave no such value. One of these men was truly there to fight. The other? Not so much.
When Matasareanu left the cab of Bill Marr's truck it was not to actively take the fight to the incoming threat, it was to place distance between that threat and himself, he was in retreat, trying once again to find a space to get away. He was a conflicting mess, a cornered animal, most definitely lethally dangerous but at every opportunity he chose to back away rather than move toward his foe (or more sensibly, surrender).
This is not to say he should have been allowed to leave the scene, the onus was upon him, he had provoked a fight and the options were but two. Fight or surrender. For the longest while he chose neither. At every opportunity Phillips moved forward into the fight, and yet at every opportunity Matasareanu did the opposite. Outside of the bank there was really only a single short phase where both men operated in concert, the ATM lobby. After that there is a marked diversion in their behaviour.
Matasareanu collapsed against the front of the Celebrity, his badly broken left leg twisted under him. The AR15 lay by his side, and thirty seconds later for the first time he raised his hands in surrender. Circumstance was to deny him his wish.
The SWAT officers were still prone behind their own vehicle, their sight picture would have been little more than the backside of his jeans and a portion of his lower back, they had no view of his hands (much less that he was holding them up in an attempt to stop the shooting).
Rounds continued to find him.
Shots impacted his left buttock, lower back, left arm. A single handgun round (presumably fired from the south side of the street) ricochet of the asphalt under the car and buried itself deep into the meat of his right buttock.
Fifty six seconds after the final shot from the XM15 rang out Steve Gomez stood and moved quickly to his left; Weapon held in his right hand and pointing at Matasareanu with his left. Orders to roll over and lay on his stomach replaced the sound of gunshots.
Gomez approached cautiously, Massa to his right side. Massa kicked the XM15 out of Matasareanu's reach where it came to rest behind Marr's truck.
Gomez kicked Matasareanu in the back of the right thigh, prompting him to roll over onto his stomach, his badly broken left leg slewed at an awkward angle. Massa moved in and placed the muzzle of his rifle against the back of Matasareanu's head, the still hot muzzle would leave a mark of its passing.
It was 10:01am, February 28th 1997. The North Hollywood Shootout was over. Wasn't it?
Whilst the shooting may have ceased the scene would not be cleared for another thirteen and a half hours and even after a semblance of normality was eventually restored to the neighbourhood the North Hollywood Shootout would not be officially over for another three years.
Matasareanu was placed under the guard of Detective James Vojtecky and Officer John Futrell, where he lay bleeding steadily for the next sixty five minutes. He would lay there until just after 11am when he turned his head away from his guards and with his nostrils full of the scent of warm asphalt, engine oil and cordite from the carpet of casings that lay around him he took his last breath.
He would die without medical personnel ever being allowed to reach him, despite an ambulance coming as close as 103ft from him.
It would appear that he had died in contentious circumstances, so much so the Matasareanu family bought a much maligned lawsuit against not only the two officers that stood guard but the City of Los Angeles, the LAPD and the LAFD amongst others for allowing a death in custody to occur without aid being rendered.