Larry Phillips moved north, retracing the forty nine feet along the walkway adjacent to the sidewalk that he had walked sixteen minutes earlier. The Trawell money bag slung over his left shoulder contained $303,305, and the three now detonated dye packs. The money was far from ruined, some was unusable but there was a large volume of it that was still "Bricked", wrapped in its plastic wrappers.
Philips moved north, apparently unseen by any cameras but spotted by several officers, Matasareanu remained in the north western ATM alcove laying down continued but relatively inaccurate covering fire.
Phillips turned right into the parking lot and after dropping the money bag by the passenger door of the Chevrolet Celebrity moved to the trunk and retrieved another belt rig similar to the now depleted one he wore around his waist. He would drop the expended belt rig between the Celebrity and the Acura parked next to it before he moved to the walkway that ran along the front of the four parked vehicles.
He would spend the next twenty two minutes operating from this location, a surprising amount of time given the situation they now found themselves in.
With the forced change of location came a change of dynamics; within the ATM lobby Phillips and to a lesser extent Matasareanu very much had the upper hand, and not just in terms of firepower. They had solid walls to their left and right and a few simple rearward steps offered them concealment from officers both north and south of the bank. The choice to engage had rested solely with the gunmen, yet once in the North Lot they surrendered that choice and became subject to being engaged from multiple angles. Those that would say that Phillips and Matasareanu went to this 'job' looking only to confront responding police units must remember that from a tactical viewpoint being holed up in the bank would have made more sense, yet dwindling ammunition resources forced the move to open ground. Had they just been in this just for a firefight would it not have made more sense to take the ammunition stored in the Celebrity into the bank with them? We believe that this movement shows in part their desire to leave, to flee, that this was never anything more than a bank robbery gone wrong.
Phillips dropped the belt rig with the now empty West German 'Tiger Stripe' pouches at the front wheel of the Acura, the car owned by the same man he had forced back inside the bank minutes earlier. He moved toward the northeast corner of the bank, knowing there was a drive through teller lane there, knowing that there was a perfect opportunity for police to flank him.
Phillips had done his homework on this location; in fact the bank had reported to the FBI on the 21st of February that they believed that they had been 'cased'. On the 23rd February the FBI collected footage from the security cameras, nothing more has ever been seen or heard relating to this incident. Had they been cased by Phillips doing a final run through before the duo struck? Or was this written off as a nervy teller jumping at shadows? The answer has always been unknown and is expected to remain so.
Why not get in the Chevy? Matasareanu surely must be only seconds behind him?
Knowing that they had been compromised and that police units would be flooding into the area we believe his actions at this point show a mindset quite remarkable for the situation he found himself in.
To stand and fight does not seem to have been the primary goal of this robbery, yet he had to assess the location, he had to know from which direction the threat would be coming at them, and then he had to clear an escape route. Remarkably clear thinking for a man who has been portrayed as being 'stoned' on barbiturates to the point of slurring his words by certain sources.
If this was his plan, and it seems most likely, then it was by no means foolproof as any time spent assessing options would mean he was allowing responding officers further time to tighten the cordon around them. Seconds counted, the course of action would have to be swift and decisive if they were to have any chance of escape.
And when seconds counted, minutes escaped them. The tide of fates was starting to turn against them, helped in no small part by two bullets which were either particularly well aimed or extremely lucky to find their mark.
Matasareanu moved from the ATM lobby, following the same path walked by his compatriot thirty seconds before. As he made the right hand turn into the North Lot he was struck above the right eye by a bullet fired from his left hand side (possibly from an officer named Tomlyn).
The bullet stuck Matasareanu a glancing blow, tearing a 5/8 inch wound open centrally between the right eyebrow and right upper eyelid.
The effect on Matasareanu was immediate; he dropped to one knee at the hood of the Celebrity and clasped his head with a gloved hand. He would move his hand between the wound and the leading edge of the Chevrolet's hood several times, leaving a substantial blood transfer. The wound whilst in no way life threatening must have been a huge shock for Matasareanu, he had come within a whisker of losing his life, a half inch the other way and the bullet could have done so much more damage.
There is a high likelihood that Matasareanu was struck a second time whilst in this position although it must be noted that the second wound may have occurred before the first, unfortunately there is no way to tell. Matasareanu was struck a second time, a bullet hissed across the inside of his right calf.
The choreography of the wounds was moot though, Matasareanu stayed at the hood of the Celebrity for only twelve seconds before disappearing inside the car. His desire to fight at this point appears to have left him and from studied footage it would seem that he played no further part in the North Lot engagement for the next twenty minutes. It is also highly probably that until he moved the Celebrity as they prepped for their exit that Matasareanu also did not fire any further rounds.
Phillips it seems was ignorant of what had happened to his partner, for he was still lurking around at the north-eastern corner. It was in this small sphere that Phillips would operate for several minutes, firing upon and being fired upon by multiple officers. He would be struck multiple times by police gunfire at this location, sustain at least three more wounds, and on two occasions nearly be put down for good.
What Larry Phillips could not have known, although he may well have had a fair guess at it at this point, is just how many officers were closing the net around them. In the skies above, Perriguey in AIR8 would be joined in the next few minutes by no less than five media helicopters.
At ground level, and so far undetected by Phillips, officers were getting closer, far too close. It is to two particular rear yards on Agnes Avenue that we now turn our attention.
Approaching through the rear yard with Telegraph pole #1 marked in came two North Hollywood officers.
Situated in the rear yard with Telegraph pole #2 was Detectives Kevin Harley and Vincent Bancroft.
Phillips had paid close attention to the drive through teller lane, peeking around the corner several times in a very short timeframe. It is at this point we believe he spotted the officers moving through the rear yard with Telegraph Pole #2 and hurriedly opened fire. His rounds, at least ten of them, impacted the northeast corner of the bank's wall resulting in several large clouds of pulverised stucco being caught by circling media helicopters.
With his attention being diverted slightly to the southeast Officer's Bancroft and Harley at the bank's perimeter (a mere 68ft away) took advantage and started to fire upon him. This would become the police tactic for several minutes to follow, a deadly game of distraction whilst hoping a round would find it's mark and take the masked gunman out of the fight.
Officer Edward Brentlinger, who had parked his vehicle diagonally across the east bound lane of Archwood Street close to the entrance to the North Lot, had moved to the bank's eastern boundary wall. He would unload twenty seven shots in Phillips direction, several of them hitting their target, none of them seemingly having any effect. Phillips does not immediately appear to have returned fire, choosing instead to crouch in front of the tan Ford Explorer, occasionally lifting himself to peek through the windshield. At one point Phillips waved in Matasareanu's direction. From his vantage point he could see that the driver's door of the Celebrity was ajar by several inches. Was he looking for assistance from his cohort? For certain he was not yet aware that Matasareanu had been shot and was recovering his composure inside the vehicle.
Long seconds passed, Bancroft and Harley decided on an extremely dangerous course of action, they kept popping above the top of the wall and firing at the squatting gunman. Bancroft recalls seeing Phillips clothing move as rounds struck him, yet still he wouldn't go down.
Phillips stood, turned to his right and shouldering his rifle let loose several volleys toward the two Detectives.
He would then turn his back on the Detective's position and move back toward the Celebrity. After only a couple of steps he noticed Brentlinger at the north end of the lot and once again shouldering his weapon he sidestepped to a position between the Acura and the Celebrity firing off between forty to fifty rounds in a north/north easterly direction in controlled 3-5 round bursts. Brentlinger and his cruiser were the target. It must be noted at this point that Phillips does not cross in front of the Celebrity, neither does he fire over the roof of it, it must therefore be concluded that he was now cognisant that his partner has made it to and was now inside the vehicle. His handling of this section of the engagement was very calculated, a point later remarked on by Charles Perriguey up in AIR8 above them.
Phillips movement, target selection (a horrible phrase given the circumstances), fire control and use of both concealment and cover were not that of your typical bank robber attempting to escape the scene of a botched robbery.
Communications between the woefully outgunned officers at street level and the dispatchers in the Parker Centre sixteen miles away in downtown were becoming fraught. Despite the very best efforts of the PSRs mistakes in received or relayed information were starting to creep in. Mistakes that were understandable given how a balmy Friday morning had gone from mundane to madness in the blink of an eye.
The airwaves were filled with calls from the scene, officers down, requests for RA units (Ambulance), and situational updates from officers who in a lot of cases were not giving their unit designations, leaving dispatch with little idea of which officers were in which locations. Chaos reigned, and in the middle of it all Larry Phillips with his Norinco rifle was intent on creating more. Above all else, the one phrase that is heard the most in those crucial few minutes is the word SWAT.
Members of Los Angeles's infamous Special Weapons And Tactics units had heard and were attempting to respond to the situation. For long minutes the four vehicles that the five officers were driving would be caught up in the snarl of backlogged traffic that was the 170 freeway. The 170, a main arterial route that runs from the north of the San Fernando Valley and turns into the 101 as it crosses the Hollywood Hills, had been closed in both directions. The bank was a mere quarter mile from the 170 and Phillips rounds were more than capable of landing amongst the daily commuters. The need for public safety prevailed and as such it left the officers at the inner cordon without the much needed rifles of the SWAT team for many long minutes. A solution was required, and one officer, watch commander Lt. Nicolas Zingo, had it.
For a full sixty seconds the airwaves remained full of positional updates on Phillips, questions about the location of the command post and Perriguey asking about a certain grey vehicle (this vehicle will be dealt with in another page) before a CRASH unit (anti gang) responded that he was heading to B&B gun store on Oxnard Street, a location less than a mile south of the bank. Eventually nine officers would attend that location to retrieve weapons that could potentially put Phillips down.
Back in the north lot, and to rewind the 'tape' a few seconds here, Phillips performed his side-stepping manoeuvre firing at least a dozen shots towards Officer Brentlinger's position alone. The rounds, mercifully, missed but were close enough to shatter the edge of the boundary wall spraying cinderblock and shrapnel up into Brentlinger's face and chest, knocking his glasses from his face. His 'black and white' behind him took multiple strikes as well, shattering most of the windows.
As Phillips sidestepped back toward the Celebrity his sightline changed and he now had a view to the north that included the Del Taco restaurant and at least two officers there with whom he would have a running duel with for the next few minutes. His trigger finger did not hesitate and he swung the muzzle due north and laid down suppressive fire at those officers. He flicked the muzzle back toward Brentlinger's last known position, still firing, the rounds impacting the wall of the Baskin Robbins ice cream store. One round would penetrate the wall, the rear of a refrigerator, the contents, the rear panel of the door before finally losing momentum after bulging out the front panel of the door. That refrigerator remains in place today, patched up and still working. The owners of the store were kind enough to let us photograph the damage, and if you shake the door gently it is possible to hear the 7.62x39mm round rattling around in the bottom of the door.
Phillips continued firing. Brentlinger, extremely lucky to escape with his life, was in the process of relocating to Agnes Avenue, just one street behind the bank. It is at this point we believe another officer approached Brentlinger's cruiser from behind and was spotted and fired upon by Phillips.
Officer Conrado Torrez took a single round across the right side of his neck before he too decided that close was too close and he backed away from what was a suicidal position to try and hold. He would relocate to the side of a house of the north side of Archwood, in front of him was the house's privet hedge and across the road a 1980's GMC Astro refuse truck, owned by the City of Los Angeles
Both Torrez and the Astro would combine to become two of the three ingredients that would help spell the end for Phillips and Matasareanu.
The Astro had been parked the night previous in front of a home further along Archwood St. When the homeowner, Barry, had phoned the city to complain a driver had come out at approximately 11:30pm and moved the truck to the location near the bank's north lot exit. This may seem a trivial piece of information at first glance but let us take a moment to reflect on it. If you already know the events that are unfolding then you are aware of how big a part of the day this truck played in the coming minutes. What if Barry had never complained about a refuse truck outside his house? What if it had never been moved? How different would the coming scene have played out?
Phillips would return to the front of the Explorer, the Norinco held loosely by its pistol grip in his right hand and swinging by his side. He now appeared agitated, maybe unsure of what to do next, he slowly moved to his left and back in front of the Acura, back in to the firing line of the officers positioned at the Del Taco restaurant. The first round hit him flush in the chest, striking him on the left hand side of the steel trauma plate inserted into the front of his Rabintek vest.
In the time it took him to bend at the waist, certainly winded, three more shots impacted the bank wall behind him all hitting slightly high and left of their intended target. For the next twenty five seconds he stayed down on one knee behind the front of the Acura whilst both fishing out another drum magazine from a pouch on his right hip and watching through the windshield for the officer who had managed to get a shot at an extreme distance on target. He finally stood and throwing the drum magazine on the Acura's hood with one hand he raised the rifle with the other, eventually he fired at least two salvos in the direction of the Del Taco officers. Neither were struck, nor does there appear to have been any structural damage to the building, although a fire crew who had parked their engine across the junction of Laurel & Van Owen some 800ft to the north reported rounds hitting the ground around their position it cannot be determined whether these were from these particular salvos.
The speed of events was escalating; Phillips was now becoming aware of just how many officers had surrounded their location. Turning back to the northeast corner of the bank, and the rear yard with Telegraph Pole #2 he was about to encounter a fresh set of officers.
This rear yard was becoming a 'popular' place for responding officers, we can count at least five who had a presence there, there may well have been more. As Senior Lead Officer Caprarelli and an unnamed officer moved up to the wall through the yard Phillips was walking back toward the teller lane and caught sight their movement, he appears to have done a very quick double take as if not believing that there was still uniforms moving up on him from a position that he had fired at so many times previously. He raised the rifle and squeezed the trigger yet again, two short bursts, a dozen rounds left the Norinco and hammered into the wall. The rounds thankfully missed their mark, only showering the approaching officers with cinderblock and shrapnel.
The officers beat a hasty retreat, taking concealment behind a garage. Seconds later Manuel 'Earl' Valadares was helped around to the leeward side of the garage, stunned and bleeding from a scalp wound.
Phillips resumed his station, kneeling at the front of the Acura.
Outside of the immediate conflict zone an exterior perimeter was starting to come together, major surface streets like Van Owen to the north, Victory to the south, Lankershim to the east were now seeing a heavy police presence. If the bandits tried to flee they would run into substantial road blocks. The problem was the myriad of interconnecting residential streets, there was just no way the LAPD could seal them all off in time.
Local schools went into lockdown, at least ten locked their doors and drew the blinds, some of the children would not be released to return home until 8:00pm that night despite the shooting being over many hours beforehand.
Burbank airport, two and half miles to the east of the firefight had its air traffic re-routed so as not to pass over the gunfire.
A citywide TAC alert had been broadcast, all officers were now aware of a unusual occurrence and were on a moment's notice to being drafted into the area by the Communications Division via request of the Incident Commander. SWAT were still stuck in traffic.
A mile south of the bank at 12521 Oxnard Street, officers pulled into the parking lot of B&B Sales.
The gun store, a favourite amongst civilian and law enforcement alike, was not due to open it's doors until 11:00am and the staff within, some of whom were aware of what was unfolding just up the street, ignored the first few demands to open the door. The officers believed the store to be unoccupied and whilst they debated on where the next nearest source of firearms lay time ticked relentlessly by.
When the doors were eventually opened, a handful of urgent officers pushed into the store looking to requisition arms that could punch through the body armour of the suspects. A staff member called one of the store's owners, Bob Kahn, and Kahn instructed them to hand over whatever the officer's needed.
Five Colt Sporters and two Remington Model 1187 shotguns along with a number of filled magazines were handed over.
Opposite Phillips position in the north lot ground based media crews were moving into positions perilously close to the gunmen.
Photographers Mike Meadows and Gene Blevins, and the Telemundo52 crew of cameraman Juan Guerra and reporter Jorge Viera all found themselves in the Valley plaza parking lot, a literal stone's throw from where Larry Phillips stood.
The Telemundo crew would catch a total of eleven minutes North lot engagement much of it within 250 feet of Larry Phillips who they had initially mistakenly identified as a SWAT officer; Meadows and especially Blevins would capture some iconic photographs.
Martin Whitfield, behind his tree on Laurel Canyon and just north of Archwood St appeared to be losing consciousness. He had been in communication with PSR Guadalupe De La Cruz for many minutes but slowly his voice was becoming quieter and harder to hear, he repeatedly asked for help, she repeatedly assured him that it was on its way.
One unit 9A37, a double crewed vehicle from the Van Nuys division and staffed by Officer Anthony Cabunoc and Officer Todd Schmitz decided they couldn't wait for the V100 armored car that was en route to try and help the injured officers, they had to do something themselves. Cabunoc told Schmitz to grab a vehicle, they were going in.
Their intent was to scoop up Whitfield, but in the short distance they covered they would find another badly wounded officer first, Stuart Guy. Still crouched behind Dr Montes Dodge Caravan, and still pulling on the makeshift tourniquet around his badly wounded leg.
"I have to save him. If I was in that position, Man, I'd want someone to come help me"
- Officer Anthony Cabunoc
Four media helicopters circled high above the bank; a fifth was just entering the airspace from the south and was busy searching for the bank when something strange occurred. All four helicopters at the scene appear to have a significant break in footage that lasts an undetermined period of time, potentially up to three minutes. Only footage from the fifth helicopter remains as it approached the scene, unfortunately that footage has no research value due to the distance it was filmed from.
The next chronologically available piece of footage available shows Phillips, having walked out in full view of all the officers that had been firing at him, made his way to the rear of the Chevrolet. Whilst here he had reloaded the Norinco rifle with a fresh drum magazine, laid the rifle inside the trunk and retrieved a replacement. The Heckler & Koch Model 91.
The cameras picked Phillips up again standing casually, and in full view of anyone who cared to take a shot at him, at the driver's door of the Celebrity. He pawed the door open several times with his left hand seemingly intent on talking to his cohort. He turned slightly to his right, facing north again and pushed his whole arm inside the car as if to possibly retrieve something being handed to him when he was stuck again by police fire. Injuries from said fire are unknown, but there is a possibility that he was struck in the right arm, a bullet that both entered and exited the exposed and unarmored outside edge of his bicep. He immediately returned to the front of the Acura, looking north, presumably at the Del Taco officers who it is believed had fired up on him. After yet another quick check that the teller lane to his right was clear he took station in front of the Explorer, for the moment he stood, no longer using its engine block as cover. Someone to his northeast, and it is unknown who, took two shots at him. Both impacted the side window of the Explorer almost simultaneously. The first ricochet through the windshield and struck the roofline of the bank. The second caught Phillips in the stomach, again he was saved by his body armour; but if it was not already clear to him before then it must have been becoming more obvious by the second; they needed to leave. He was taking more and more incoming fire and soon lucky was not going to be enough.
Yet instead of initiating the exit they so desperately needed he resumed his favoured position, on one knee by the engine block of the Explorer and after only a few seconds suddenly turned the .308cal semi auto rifle skyward, in his sights lay the ENG helicopter from the CBS channel KCAL9. Bob Pettit soon realised that they were being targeted and the chopper backed off, but not before Phillips had fired close to thirty rounds in their direction in very rapid succession.
Why? Why shoot at the media helicopters? Frustration? Or was he trying to tactically deny them being able to relay footage of his movements. The second seems unlikely, he was a bug on a plate in that parking lot, many officers could already pinpoint his location. It seems to have been nothing more than a petulant display of anger, resulting in no tactical advantage and doing nothing more than burning precious seconds that they were already running ever so short of.
Whilst Phillips tied in vain to hit the media helicopter Schmitz and Cabunoc entered the Valley Plaza parking lot on foot and attempted to work their way north, toward the fading Martin Whitfield.
Seconds into their foray they found Guy and Angeles huddled behind two vehicles a scant 260ft from the active gunman. Cabunoc turned to Schmitz, who at this point had just five months on the force, and told him to go get a car. In the background heavy .308 calibre gunfire tore at the air.
"My partner is one car away from me and i can't hear what he's saying" - Officer Todd Schmitz
"We can hear shots being fired, the whip of these stray bullets whizzing by us" - Officer Anthony Cabunoc
Let us for a moment take a brief pause and examine that last quote. Cabunoc's quote is vital in understanding some quite horrendous liberties that have been taken by reputable documentary makers and used to sensationalise events that had absolutely no need to be enhanced.
Officers Schmitz and Cabunoc's response to helping downed and wounded officers is nothing short of heroic, there is no intent whatsoever here to belittle their actions.
Modern media would have you believe that, as one documentary put it 'they stormed into a hail of gunfire'. Whilst it is true that they moved into an area extremely close to an active shooter it must be understood that they were never the targets of ANY shots that were being fired. Phillips was after all out of line of sight of this group, being around the corner of the bank and currently firing upward at the helicopters. When examined, Cabunoc's quote itself tells you all you need to know; 'stray bullets'. He never once implies that the rounds were deliberately fired at himself and or his partner, just that bullets were passing near to his location.
Yet if these were not rounds fired by Phillips then by whom?
As we deal with Larry Phillips last walk and ultimate demise on the next page we shall show you another instance where errant police gunfire comes within feet of hitting a civilian, and again media misreported the ‘fact' that this was rounds fired from Phillips weapon.
Schmitz returned with a Van Nuys patrol car and pulled it to within feet of the tableau behind Dr Montes van. Cabunoc hurriedly worked on getting the sitting Stuart Guy turned around. Schmitz exited the cruiser; Angeles pulled open the rear door. Cabunoc hauled Guy semi-upright and collapsed into the back seat with the wounded officer on top of him, there wasn't enough time to get Stuart Guy all the way inside the vehicle and as such the rear passenger door remained open until they had exited the lot and were on safer ground.. The movements were urgent, almost panicked for all four of them knew that Phillips was just 260 feet away and if he chose to look around the northwest corner of the bank then he could have the whole group in his sights in seconds.
Detective Angeles took the front passenger seat as Schmitz skilfully reversed the vehicle on a mazy course out of the parking lot. Guy's feet hung out of the open door, they had not had the time to get him fully inside and close the door.
There exists a story that tells of the black and white being hit by gunfire on its way out of the lot, that the front driver's side tyre was punctured, and whilst the car does appear to wobble significantly at one point we have never been able to find a source to confirm if this was the case or not. It must be remembered that even if this does prove to be true then this was not the result of gunfire from the bank robbers, this would have come from an errant police round.
Guy was driven a very short distance to a casualty collection point and then taken by ambulance to Holy Cross medical centre for treatment of gunshot wounds to his right thigh and right arm.
Cabunoc and Schmitz, who could have been forgiven for sitting the rest of the fight out having braved the killing ground once, were not finished; they had set out to find Martin Whitfield and were intent of completing that task.
With Phillips relatively static, back in front of the tan Explorer again, Cabunoc and Schmitz must have realised that to take the same route through the Hughes lot to reach Whitfield's position would have to cross Phillips line of sight. They decided to approach from the north instead. As they moved in a circuitous route to get in position it is at around this point that Whitfield stopped responding.
Officer Whitfield had maintained a steady communication with PSR Guadalupe De La Cruz; her intent was to keep him talking, to keep him focussed on staying conscious until help arrived. His replies were becoming progressively less audible; it appeared he was fading out. His final transmission was broken and drawn out.
Cruz called him back, several times, trying to jar him back awake. Across the chaotic jumble of transmissions that filled the airwaves Whitfield's ROVR remained silent.
"9L89, 9L89 come in" Cruz's voice, filled with emotion cut across the airwaves.
Still no answer.
At this point she unplugged from her console and PSR Robyn Frazier took over. She too tried Whitfield's call sign, and she too was met with silence. The need to get to Officer Whitfield now appeared dire.
Phillips, in front of the Explorer, now did something that looked quite puzzling at first glance.
Carrying the Heckler & Koch 91, which was only fed by box magazines, he pulled out yet another AKM drum magazine from a pouch on his waist. He unloaded the H&K magazine and took a knee again. At first glance it appears he was confused, intent on loading a magazine into the rifle that was clearly not designed for it and would never be able to operate in it. Yet closer inspection shows he was planning ahead, he was getting ready to swap weapons again and to begin the final steps of the sequence that would see them attempt to finally flee the scene. He stood, and strode in front of the line of cars as if looking to see what opposition was left. Twice he raised the rifle, once he fired toward Whitfield's position the second time he lowered it without firing. The muted pop pop pop of returning pistol fire can be heard; Phillips showed no reaction to it whatsoever.
Inside the Chevrolet Matasareanu, who by now appeared to have recovered his composure somewhat, heard something on the 50 channel Radio Shack police scanner they had bought with them.
SWAT were on scene.
The four black and whites of the SWAT team parked up at the curb of Victory Boulevard, two blocks south of the bank. Don Anderson was busy emptying his back seat to make room for the other officers. Peter Weireter recalls Anderson's cheque book, amongst other personal items being dumped on to the sidewalk. Together the four officers, Anderson, Weireter, Steve Gomez and Richard Massa moved forward until they came to the bank's south parking lot.
Weireter exited the rear of Anderson's vehicle and moved to attract the attention of the driver of an armored truck owned by Armored Transport Inc.
It would not offer much more protection against the calibre of ammunition being used by the bank robbers but it was a workable plan conceived at short notice.
Back in the North Lot Matasareanu heard the call, things were now about to start moving very quickly.
"SUSPECT VEHICLE IS MOVING! SUSPECT VEHICLE IS MOVING!" - Unknown Officer
He reversed the Chevrolet out of its spot and pulled it across the rear of the Acura; all Phillips had to do was walk up and get in. The Chevrolet Celebrity was at this point running on at least two flat tyres, all victims of incoming gunfire. Taking this vehicle any distance at all would be impossible, they would have to acquire a replacement within a couple of miles at most and both men must have known it.
Before they could escape Phillips had one more task he felt he needed to complete, to swap rifles again, and in doing so one of the many small singular events that would conspire to seal his fate would happen.
He stepped forward off the line he had patrolled and fired from for the last twenty minutes, the AKM drum magazine gripped in his left hand, the forestock of the H&K91 balanced over his left forearm. He fired steadily as he inched forward, it appeared he was firing into the Celebrity, some overeager reports even said he was firing at his accomplice but examination of the video and a extensive examination of the interior of the Celebrity shows this just to be a product of the angle the footage was filmed from, Phillips targets appear to have been the officers at the Del Taco restaurant.
Matasareanu, now sitting on the passenger side of the Celebrity bench seat (was he expecting Phillips to drive? Or was he in this location for what happened next?) raised his own rifle and fired a short burst through the centre of the driver's door window, shattering it completely. Phillips reaction to these shots once again goes to point out that the story of these men being dazed and shambling drugged up wrecks during this robbery just seems false. Hearing the gunfire close to his right side he immediately went into a crouch, returning to his standing state only a second later when he realised where the gunfire had originated from.
He rounded the rear of the Celebrity, its trunk wide open, continuing to fire his rifle north along Laurel Canyon Boulevard. After taking two aimed shots toward Brentlinger's cruiser he dropped the rifle to his hip, balanced now in only his right hand he proceeded to fire multiple shots in a ninety degree arc from north to west. Targets within that range would have include Officers Zielinski, Schram, Lantz, Haynes, Whitfield, Tomlyn and the civilians still down, wounded and playing dead behind Dean Haynes cruiser.
Police responded instantly and shots drove him momentarily back around to the passenger side of the Celebrity. The rounds that had impacted him at this point came from two angles, several came from his right hand side, fired by Detectives Bancroft and Harley, several more came from in front of him.
It is unknown how many rounds found their mark but it is strongly believed that three wounds were caused in quick succession. One to Phillips and two to the rifle.
The first wound is believed to have been a strike to Phillips left hand, passing through the back of his thumb, breaking the bone and eviscerating a large wound on the fleshy pad of his thumb as it exited.
His response was instant, he dropped his left hand from the rifle and continued to fire one handed. The critical point here is that the weapon still continued to function normally for several seconds after he fired the rifle one handed. A round fired from either Bancroft or Harley then hit and penetrated the upper dust cover of the receiver, conflicting reports endure as to whether any internal damage was caused to the rifle by this round. A second impact was terminal. A round fired from the north struck the magazine well, deforming the sheet metal to such an extent that removal of an expended or insertion of a fresh magazine was rendered impossible. Phillips intent to swap the Heckler & Koch rifle was no longer a matter of choice but one of necessity.
Phillips staggered and then pushed back toward the trunk, ditching the now useless H&K and selecting another Norinco Type56. Given Phillips actions in the next couple of minutes it is believed that he was not cognisant of the damage to the rifle, for on his final walk towards Agnes Avenue he would carry a magazine for the H&K in his left hand (later to be found by his body), to us this indicates that not only was he trying to make it back to the Chevrolet but he was also planning to retrieve the .308 rifle for further use.
Like the two other Chinese rifles used that day the duo had illegally modified this one too, only this one appears to have been either a sloppy conversion or had been used so much that its internal parts were on the verge of failure. The rifle itself was subtly different to the others used; the previous rifles had originally been the full wooden stocked variant and had been converted to accept Romanian side folding stocks. This one was an underfolder known as the Norinco T56s1 and apart from the illegal conversion remained as it had left the factory.
In the south lot of the bank the SWAT team heard what Weireter described as a "overwhelming volume of gunfire"; the sound of the .308 rifle being fired rapidly bounced and reverberated up and down Laurel, a sound many present have said they will never forget.
Weireter, seen clearly on video, ran into the crosswalk at Laurel and Kittridge waved for the armored truck, AT1440, to pull forward. David Campbell the driver had already been in radio contact with his superiors, a father and son team John & John Jr Cassotta. The Cassotta's, both ex law enforcement officers themselves and both recipients of the Medal of Valor during their careers gave their immediate consent for the vehicle to be used in whatever role the officers needed.
When Campbell pulled AT1440 forward and Weireter opened the side door he would find five LAPD officers already inside. Breaking off from the rest of his team he would direct the steel plated Ford F700 northbound to try and find the wounded.
Anderson, Gomez and Massa would have to work without him.
By the time the armoured car reached Martin Whitfield, turned and discovered the civilians behind Sgt. Haynes cruiser and collected them too Larry Phillips would already be dead on the dirt path 131ft from the bank's exit, Matasareanu would be making a ponderous attempt at escape along Archwood.
Phillips had grabbed the Norinco 56s1 by its barrel and as he stepped back to the passenger side of the vehicle he was struck yet again, and it was this wound that appears to have out of all of them bothered him the most. A bullet had found its way under the left forearm 'wrap' of body armour, tearing at the flesh underneath in a spiraling fashion. Phillips span a full 360 degrees, backing up between the Acura and the Explorer. He was leant over the trunk of the Acura in obvious discomfort and trying to juggle the Norinco into a position where he could use it.
This moment endured only briefly before he was upright and operational again. Matasareanu pushed the passenger door open and moved to the driver's side of the bench seat. Phillips initially ignored the open door and walked toward the front of the Celebrity before returning and barging the door closed with this left arm held close to his body. The message was clear. Matasareanu was to drive and he would walk alongside providing cover fire.
They moved through the lot, Matasareanu swinging the car to point north toward the exit.
Phillips strode briskly alongside, weapon held at port arms.
Thirty feet before the exit Phillips threw the drum magazine he was carrying on the roof and Matasareanu brought the car to a halt. Phillips had obviously seen something he deemed worth firing at.
He braced the Norinco over the roof of the white Celebrity and proceeded to fire at an unknown target to the west, presumably at the already downed civilians taking cover behind Dean Haynes' cruiser. An interesting question arises: Did Phillips know he was shooting at civilians? We will never know, but if he did, it was a rather cold-blooded thing to do and one can only assume that at this point in the gunfight, Phillips was looking to inflict maximum amount of damage to his victims. At least three of the rounds he fired impacted with the open driver's door of Haynes cruiser'. Luckily for Horen, Fisher, and Barry Golding, the driver's door of Haynes' cruiser provided just enough cover to shield them from Phillips' 7.62x39mm slugs.
He had fired three short bursts, approximately nine rounds, when the first of two recorded stoppages occurred.
Grabbing the drum magazine from the roof he beat a hurried retreat toward an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme parked at the eastern boundary wall.
Matasareanu inched the car forward three times, eager it seemed to get away.
Phillips cleared the stoppage, reloaded a fresh drum magazine, stood and strode purposefully toward the exit. From the moment he reappeared from under the trees by the Oldsmobile he started firing.
Once again the cacophony of full auto gunfire echoed through North Hollywood. He sprayed rounds in multiple directions, seemingly aimless at first glance but closer inspection proves logic to every location he fired at.
South down the teller lane.
South west toward the Valley Plaza lot where he knew officers must still be located.
West toward Haynes cruiser.
Multiple volleys northwest toward Haynes and Whitfield's locations.
What at first seemed random proved to be Phillips aiming at every location he could in that short walk where he knew he had previously encountered officers.
Phillips may have suffered a second malfunction to the weapon as he approached the Chevrolet, a rapid movement with his right hand towards the receiver may have been him clearing a hung up casing or it may just have been him waving Matasareanu forward to follow him, unfortunately the video stock does not lend itself to detailed examination I'm afraid.
They crossed the edge of the lot onto Archwood Street.
They were out.
The North Hollywood Shootout had gone mobile.