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On February 28th, 1997 in North Hollywood, California, two men wearing black clothes, full body armor from toe to neck and carrying AK-47 assault rifles robbed the Bank of America on Kittredge and Laurel Canyon. The robbers were doomed from the start. Patrolling police officers saw them enter the bank wearing ski masks and body armor. This was at approximately 9 AM. About half an hour later the robbers, finished inside the bank and carrying about $330,000, emerged to meet several dozen police cruisers and officers. Instead of surrendering they shot at the officers and wounded several.

All of this was broadcast on live television from a news helicopter that stayed on the scene from beginning to end.

The officers were out-gunned. Their 9mm handguns were not powerful enough to penetrate the robbers’ body armor and the robbers had automatic weapons in their hands and a car full of backup weapons just outside the bank. The police cruisers on the scene were rendered useless by the robbers’ weapons.

The robbers left the bank and used their getaway car as cover to shield themselves from police as one gunman walked beside the car with the trunk open shooting at police officers and civilians as their car slowly moved away from the bank. The gunman on foot had a trunkfull of weapons to choose from and shot several people. All in all, six police officers and three civilians were wounded by gunfire.

Around this time several police units not being used to contain the violence at the bank went to local gun stores to pick up enough firepower to make an effective assault on the robbers. The police strategy was to wait for the more heavily armed SWAT teams to arrive before attacking the robbers directly. The patrol officers were told to do their best to contain the robbers instead of trying to subdue them without SWAT assistance.

SWAT officers have access to heavy artillery at all times. They carry more reasonable body armor (it was later noted that the robbers wore too much armor and lacked mobility) and a selection of weapons in their cars ranging from MP5’s, M26’s, Shotguns, H&K. 223 assault rifles and AR15’s.

The robber who walked behind the getaway car, shooting at everyone he could find, was killed when police finally managed to shoot him in the head, possibly after wearing him down by shooting at his feet. His name was Larry Phillips Jr. He was a crooked real estate agent.

When the other robber noticed that his partner had been felled he took off in their car and drove through a residential neighborhood. Not long after, he abandoned the car, now useless and filled with bullets, and tried to get another. He failed and was shot by police. His name was Emil Matasareanu. He was the son of Romanian opera singer and a Romanian scientist. He lay in the street screaming. Some witnesses report he was screaming for the cops to shoot him in the head. Some said he was screaming for an ambulance. Some said he was screaming for both. He got neither and bled out in the street over the next hour. His asscrack was hanging out of his pants.

In the end six police officers were wounded by gunfire. All survived. Three civilians were wounded by gunfire. All survived. A handful of other police officers and civilians were injured in this incident but not by gunfire. They survived. The two robbers died. The whole thing was broadcast live on national news.

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