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The North Hollywood Bank Job
September 5, 2008 4:12 PM   Subscribe

The North Hollywood Bank Job. part two part three part four . Inspired by this famous (and NSFW) scene from Heat, on Feb. 28, 1997, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Matasareanu attempted to rob a Bank of America in North Hollywood, CA using body armor, automatic weapons and barbiturates. This documentary uses news footage, recreations, interviews, computer animation and a cheesy narrator to explain the chaotic hour that followed. There are some violent images.

Supplements: The chapter (starting on page 246) on the North Hollywood Bank job in this book is excellent, and provides a nice summary of the pair's earlier robberies. Here is a Google map of the events.
posted by Bookhouse (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder if this was any better...
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:44 PM on September 5, 2008


thanks for this, bookhouse.
I'd been wondering what footage was available on this.
for no reason in particular.
posted by Busithoth at 4:58 PM on September 5, 2008


yeah, I remember watching this on tv and being fascinated. . . then I never heard much about it again.

so, thanks.
posted by Espoo2 at 5:00 PM on September 5, 2008


I'm only partway through, and I watched the Heat clip first, but the shootout was part of the plan?
posted by niles at 5:05 PM on September 5, 2008


Why would you be inspired by a scene in which a robbery goes wrong and most of the participants are graphically killed?
posted by selfnoise at 5:07 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watched this live on TV when it happened, too. It seemed to me that the robbers had an overinflated sense of how well body armor works.
posted by MythMaker at 5:11 PM on September 5, 2008


I'm only partway through, and I watched the Heat clip first, but the shootout was part of the plan?

Why would you be inspired by a scene in which a robbery goes wrong and most of the participants are graphically killed?

My understanding (coming almost entirely from the book I linked to above) is that these guys weren't very sharp and didn't have a whole lot to live for. Their obsession with Heat is documented (police found several copies of the film in their apartments, people who knew them confirmed they watched it often). The North Hollywood job wasn't their first job, nor the first one in which they opened fire -- they shot an armored car guard in the back on one of their first jobs. They were by no means criminal masterminds, and in fact (again, according to my reading of Where the Money Is) it is arguable that while they probably never explicitly planned to go out in a blaze of glory, it was the inevitable result of many of their actions and therefore at least subconsciously part of the plan. Remember, lots of people think Scarface had a happy ending too.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:24 PM on September 5, 2008


This is why all gun control legislation is such a bad idea. No way would these guys have a chance against all those cops if they didn't have easy access to automatic weapons.
posted by philip-random at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2008


In the first video, the call goes in "possible AK-47s", and yet later the Detective says that they only thought that the gunmen had hand weapons. I haven't finished watching even the first video yet, but I'm guessing that something goes horribly wrong because of the AKs...
posted by djgh at 5:29 PM on September 5, 2008


Oh look. Somebody turned MetaFilter into bad cable TV.

What's that you say? Sexy singles? Want to meet ME?
posted by felix betachat at 5:37 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


This was my first real introduction to LA. At the time of the shootout (and actually until a month ago), I lived 6 blocks away from the shootout.

My co-workers turned on the tv set and exclaimed "man, isn't it weird to see a place you know on TV?" My response was "screw that! It's a weird feeling to see the place you live on tv!"

They had just re-opened the neighborhood when I arrived back from work.
posted by drewbage1847 at 5:41 PM on September 5, 2008


I was living about a half mile from that location when it happened. Working in Pasadena, wondering whether I'd be diverted on my route home (even though it was a couple blocks away) so I took the next offramp after my usual and doubled-back. A few days later when I went to the supermarket across the street from that bank, it all looked .... so .... normal, as if it had never happened. But the pictures of what was happening at the time at a very familiar locale was damned creepy.

I'm still not sure those two assholes really deserved the slow painful deaths they suffered as they bled out from the bullets that got under their body armor. while rescue squads were either too afraid to go to their aid or held back by the police while they were still moving. Well, they deserved slow painful deaths more than most people who suffer slow painful deaths do, but still... And I don't know if I want to revisit it again now.

Never seen Scarface but I thought the bad guy died. Isn't that a classic Hollywood happy ending?
posted by wendell at 5:53 PM on September 5, 2008


Drew! Neighbor! Okay, I was more like a mile away (9-10 blocks... outside any barricades).
posted by wendell at 5:56 PM on September 5, 2008


Barbiturates? That's an, um, interesting choice of medicine for a bank robbery.
posted by dhammond at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2008


Heat is a fantastic film. Too bad to hear this real-life shootout took cues from Michael Mann's classic. My favorite scene (featuring Al Pacino and the man behind the voice of Chief Wiggum and Moe Szyslak.)
posted by porn in the woods at 6:02 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man, if only they were inspired to be enamored of women with great asses, instead.
posted by Snyder at 6:08 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I worked for a TV production company that did one of the documentaries on this (not the one you link to here, I don't think). Got all too familiar with the locations involved.
posted by rednikki at 6:57 PM on September 5, 2008


This is why all gun control legislation is such a bad idea. No way would these guys have a chance against all those cops if they didn't have easy access to automatic weapons.

I'm not quite sure what you're going for, here, since these two statements seem to have opposite meanings. Is one of them meant to be sarcasm? At any rate, automatic weapons are not legal in California, nor were they legal in 1997. Hell, California had banned most semi-automatic AKs in 1989.

It's also worth noting that the body armor probably had much more to do with allowing these guys to stand "against all those cops" than the full-autos did!
posted by vorfeed at 8:28 PM on September 5, 2008


Hell, I could do that...
posted by stavrogin at 8:35 PM on September 5, 2008


Barbiturates? That's an, um, interesting choice of medicine for a bank robbery.

Yah, I wonder where these guys got the idea that pheno-barb would help them? For one thing, PB a slow-acting barbiturate which doesn't even peak for a few hours. They would probably have been long done with the robbery and down the road (or so they'd hoped) by the time they would have noticed the PB.
posted by telstar at 8:51 PM on September 5, 2008


Vorfeed: isn't body armor banned as well? Didn't Ol' Dirty Bastard get busted in LA for wearing body armor?
posted by Brocktoon at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2008


So, I got the impression that these guys took P-barb so that they wouldn't feel or be as concerned with the wounds they suffered. Could be wrong, but it seems logically sound to take that stuff as it slowly kicks in (before it makes you goofy), then have it take effect later (to help you walk off any wounds or adrenal rush you might encounter). Maybe?

Also, I can't stand Al Pacino. He's the same guy in every movie.
posted by Pecinpah at 9:23 PM on September 5, 2008


Wendell: Ha! And now I live in Pasadena.

On the case at hand, as near as I can tell the crooks went looking for a fight. The bank is not that far from the North Hollywood police station. Of course, they got a little unlucky in the fact that a gun store was right across the street. When the first officers on scene realized how severely underpowered they were, they ducked into the store where the store owner started handing out better guns to the cops.

Of course, the store owners got into some trouble for that. Sadly, the store closed not much later
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:08 PM on September 5, 2008


They should have taken PCP, Iiiii'm tellin' ya.
posted by not_on_display at 10:53 PM on September 5, 2008


Body armor is legal in CA. However, it is illegal to wear body armor while committing a crime (In other words, it will add to your crime, much like how discharging a firearm while committing a crime makes it worse).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:57 AM on September 6, 2008


Also prohibited for felons to own it, I guess, which is what ODB was arrested for (see wiki)
posted by wildcrdj at 12:58 AM on September 6, 2008


So, I got the impression that these guys took P-barb so that they wouldn't feel or be as concerned with the wounds they suffered.

Barbs'll do that to a person. I had criminal friend who were afficionados of the stuff, back in the 70's, and it was almost as though they believed it provided them with a cloak of invisibility, under which your pursuers couldn't see them.

But on the off chance that somebody could see through the cloak of invisibility (which people *always* could, as barbs turned people into the most ludicrous, drunken, falling, sleeping dimwits), then they had the secondary impact of stopping you from caring what happened to you if you did get caught.

Terrible drugs. They make crack and meth look positively wholesome.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:10 AM on September 6, 2008


At the time, I lived in North Hollywood around the corner from this bank, at Tujunga and Camarillo. I was at work in Sherman Oaks all day. My gf at the time couldn't go home for lunch because our neighborhood was roped off. I found the whole thing tremendously exciting, as if Heat had come to life on our doorstep.

The thing I found most remarkable upon first living in North Hollywood was you could occasionally hear the popping sound of gunfire at night.
posted by autodidact at 2:37 AM on September 6, 2008


By the way, these two assholes deserved their slow, painful deaths.
posted by autodidact at 2:44 AM on September 6, 2008


sheesh... I remember moving in a few blocks from there a year later and having no clue about all this until I saw another program about it.

youtube is painfully slow for me while everything else works fine. is this like this for everyone?
posted by krautland at 7:23 AM on September 6, 2008


This incident (and to some extent, the recently linked turkish reporters getting shot up by ak's in georgia) illustrates why "The Gunny's Guru" always said "May your enemies always be on full-auto". The fact is, no cops died (though a couple were horribly wounded) and both those guys were killed. Full auto is only good for keeping opposition's heads down and/or preventing being overrun when outnumbered.
posted by 445supermag at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2008


The reason they took barbiturates was to calm their nerves. The idea is to not get excited during the robbery by keeping their pulse under control.

They had planned to get away clean but got caught on the way out. The firefight ensued.
posted by Argyle at 11:02 AM on September 6, 2008


The reason they took barbiturates was to calm their nerves. The idea is to not get excited during the robbery by keeping their pulse under control.

Low-ish dose benzo-diazepines (valium, etc.) would have been a much better choice, and maybe would have even have kicked in during the robbery, depending on pharmaco-kinetics of the derivative they chose. Pheno-barb seems to me to be a weird, weak choice if calming themselves during the robbery was their goal.
posted by telstar at 2:31 AM on September 7, 2008


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