Wild California Bank Robbery Leaves One Cop Dead


Numerous cops shot by heavily armed crew.

By 1980, Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs had a reputation of being the bank robbery capital of the world.  Many notable robberies had occurred over the years, but none were wilder than the Security Pacific Bank in Norco, California.

The robbery occurred on May 9th, 1980, at about 3:40, when a crew of 5 perps pulled up to the bank in a stolen van and announced a robbery.  The crew was very heavily armed with AR-15’s, Heckler and Koch rifles, and pistols.  They even had homemade grenades and a sword.  

The robbery was called in to police as a passerby saw the suspicious group entering the bank.  Riverside County Sheriff Deputy Glyn Bolasky was the first cop on the scene as he happened to be driving by when the call started coming over the radio.  The unsuspecting Bolasky rolled into the parking lot and was met with the robbers leaving the bank.  They opened fire on the deputy, who reversed out of the lot, and was able to get out of his car.  He returned fire with a shotgun but was badly outgunned.  

The perps piled into the van and started fleeing the scene when Bolasky was able to get a shotgun blast into the van before being shot 5 times by the perps.  The driver was killed by Bolasky’s blast, and the van crashed.  The 4 surviving perps carjacked a passing pickup truck and piled in with their weapons and took off.  A wild pursuit was on.  

Additional units and a police helicopter joined the chase.  Perps were firing from the bed of the pickup as police units joined the pursuit.  Homemade grenades and rifle rounds damaged numerous police vehicles and wounded deputies from the Riverside and San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Departments and the California Highway Patrol.  The perps were even able to damage the police helicopter and force it to land.  

The perps drove into a wooded area and stopped in a dead end.  Cops, following from a distance pulled onto the block, led by Deputy Sheriff James Evans.  Evans was met by a fusillade of bullets but was able to return fire with his .38 revolver, wounding one of the perps.  While engaged in the gunbattle, Evans took a round to the head and was killed immediately. 

Additional officers, only armed with their .38s arrived on scene, but were outmatched and pinned down.  Finally, Deputy DJ McCarty arrived on the scene with an M-16 and opened fire.  He drove the 4 surviving perps into the woods.  

The next day three of the perps surrendered.  The fourth engaged in another shootout with a LA County Sheriff SWAT team and was killed.  In all eight cops were shot and wounded and Riverside Deputy James Evans was killed.  The miles long shootout exposed several weaknesses in the law enforcement response.  Interagency communications, a lack of firepower, and insufficient air resources were all addressed in the ensuing years to ensure the safety of cops and the public.  



by Christopher Flanagan


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