On Friday May 9, 1980, four heavily armed gunmen entered the Security Pacific Bank in Norco, California. By chance a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff was at the intersection when the call came in. A fifth gunman waited in a van outside and warned his partners. When the gunmen finally came out, they exited with guns blazing. They were armed with semi-automatic rifles and pistols. The deputy was armed with only a revolver and shotgun. The gunmen had also equipped themselves with homemade fragmentation bombs and grenade launchers.
The suspects engaged the responding officers who were seemingly hopelessly outgunned. What happened next was a 40-mile long police pursuit into the Lytle Creek area of the San Gabriel mountains.
By time it was over two suspects would be dead, one officer killed, 8 officers and and 2 bystanders would be wounded as well as two suspects. At least 30 police vehicles would be damaged and a helicopter forced to land due to damage from gunfire.
40 years later the Norco Bank Robbery Shootout remains one of the most dynamic and dangerous police encounters to have occurred in the United States. In many ways it changed police procedures and was one of the early events that motivated departments to modernize their weaponry and tactics.
Joe Vargas interviewed Peter Houlahan who has written the book Norco 80, the True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History. The book chronicles the before, during and after of the shooting.
The aftermath of the shooting would become the longest criminal trial of its time in the State of California.
You can watch the YouTube video or download the podcast of the interview with Peter Houlahan.