From the Archives: The 1997 North Hollywood Shootout

On Feb. 28, 1997, two heavily armed bank robbers in body armor exchanged a storm of gunfire with Los Angeles police on the streets of North Hollywood. No officers or bystanders were killed in the terrifying 44-minute shootout.

One of the most violent days in LAPD history unfolded on live television on Feb. 28, 1997 when two bank robbers wearing body armor and wielding assault rifles engaged in a ferocious gunfight with officers on the streets of North Hollywood.

It began with an attempted robbery at the Bank of America branch in North Hollywood. Forty-four minutes later, hundreds of rounds had been fired by the robbers carrying AK-47s and LAPD officers, most of whom were armed only with their handguns.

The two bank robbers, Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., 26, and Emil Matasareanu, 30, were killed.

After a bystander reported the robbery to authorities, responding officers were met with a barrage of gunfire from Phillips as he casually walked out of the bank and into the parking lot. Realizing how badly they were outgunned, some of the officers got rifles at nearby gun stores.

Matasareanu, shot twice in the bank parking lot, took cover in a getaway car and slowly drove toward Phillips, who continued walking and shooting.

Phillips was shot nearly a dozen times. His gun jammed when he was pinned down behind a car. He shot himself in the head, but an autopsy report noted the coroner could not determine whether he or police fired the fatal shot.

Matasareanu, shot several times in the legs, bled to death a short time later. His family later sued two police officers and the city, claiming the officers were indifferent to Matasareanu’s wounds at the scene and let him die. The case was declared a mistrial in 2000 and later dismissed.

Eleven officers and seven bystanders were injured .

Below, watch NBC4 News footage from that day.

Warning: Videos contain graphic images.

As the two heavily armed men got into a gun battle with LAPD officers after the botched bank robbery in North Hollywood, the suspects fired armor-piercing bullets from fully automatic weapons. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
SWAT officers joined by sheriff's deputies using K-9s went door-to-door in search of possible additional suspects in the North Hollywood Shootout. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
The streets of North Hollywood resembled a war zone, with hundreds of rounds fired between police and the two heavily armed bank robbers. One witness described the weaponry as "army machinery." Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
The sound of heavy gunfire echoed in the streets as two bank robbers armed with assault rifles opened fire in an attempt to make a getaway. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
The two robbers in body armor and ski masks emerged from the bank with guns blazing. The bloody confrontation with police lasted nearly an hour. Archived footage from Feb. 28, 1997.
LAPD officers armed with handguns and shotguns were no match for the two bank robbers toting assault rifles. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
Thousands of rounds were fired as two heavily armed bank robbers were confronted by LAPD officers in the streets of the San Fernando Valley. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
An LAPD car was riddled with bullets after coming under fire from a bank robber armed with a fully automatic assault rifle. Archived video from Feb. 28, 1997.
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