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|Location||Norco, California, United States|
|Date||May 9, 1980
3:40 p.m. (UTC-7)
|Target||A branch of Security Pacific Bank|
|Bank robbery, ambush shootout|
|Deaths||3 (2 perpetrators, 1 sheriff's deputy)|
|Perpetrators||Belisaro Delgado (killed)
Manuel Delgado (killed)
Christopher Gregory Harven
George Wayne Smith
The Norco shootout was an armed confrontation between five heavily armed bank robbers and deputies of the Riverside and San Bernardino County sheriff's departments in Norco, California, United States on May 9, 1980. Two of the five perpetrators and one sheriff's deputy were killed, 9 other law enforcement officers were injured, and gunfire damaged at least 30 police cars and one police helicopter.
At approximately 3:40 p.m., five men armed with shotguns, an AR-15, an HK91, an HK93, handguns, and an improvised explosive device robbed the Norco branch of Security Pacific Bank. Deputies of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department responding to the bank robbery call confronted the perpetrators outside the bank and a shootout ensued, killing one perpetrator. The perpetrators then stole a vehicle in the bank parking lot and fled the scene, leading police on a 25-mile (40 km) car chase into neighboring San Bernardino County. Riverside County deputies were joined in the pursuit by officers of other area law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The perpetrators then ambushed the pursuing deputies and engaged them in another shootout in unincorporated San Bernardino County near Lytle Creek before escaping into a wooded area in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Two days later, three of the four surviving perpetrators were arrested in the area of the ambush; the fourth was killed by police. The three who were arrested were convicted of 46 felonies and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The robbery and pursuit
At 3:40 p.m. on May 9, 1980, four robbers stormed into the bank and forced the tellers to hand over $20,000 in cash, while the fifth robber kept watch outside. Unknown to the robbers, an employee at a different bank across the street spotted them entering the bank and called the police.
Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Glyn Bolasky was the first officer to arrive at the scene. As he pulled up, one of the robbers left outside with their getaway van radioed his partners inside the bank and said "We've been spotted! Let's go! Let's go!" The robbers then exited the bank and began to fire on Deputy Bolasky's police cruiser, blowing out the windshield and forcing Bolasky to throw the vehicle in reverse. Bolasky's cruiser crashed into another car in the street. Taking cover behind his vehicle, Bolasky returned fire at the gunmen. The gunmen got into the van and once all five men were inside, they attempted to flee the scene, continuing to shoot at Bolasky. As the van sped away, a pellet from Bolasky's shotgun struck the driver, Belisaro Delgado, in the back of the head, killing him and sending the van crashing into a telephone pole guy-wire. The four remaining robbers then exited the vehicle and fired over 200 rounds at Bolasky, putting 47 bullet holes in his cruiser. Bolasky was hit five times; in the face, upper left shoulder, both forearms and the left elbow.
By this time, Deputies Charles Hille and Andy Delgado (no relation to Belisaro Delgado) had arrived at the scene. While Delgado engaged the robbers with gunfire, Hille managed to evacuate Bolasky in his cruiser and transport him to a nearby hospital. The robbers continued to fire at other officers arriving at the scene, and attempted to escape again by commandeering a truck stopped at the intersection in front of the bank. As the four led a police pursuit, they shot at the pursuing officers and threw homemade bombs out the back of the truck. Overall, they damaged 33 police vehicles, including a police helicopter, forcing it to land.
The suspects pulled far ahead of the pursuing police officers and stopped to ambush them as they caught up. Officer James Evans, one of the first police units to come under attack during the ambush, was shot in the head and killed. The police, armed with only .38-caliber revolvers and 12-gauge shotguns, were out-gunned. They were, however, soon joined by San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy D. J. McCarty, who brought an AR-15 to the shootout. Shortly after he engaged the robbers with his rifle, they stopped shooting and fled the scene, running into the wooded area of Lytle Creek, San Bernardino. "There would have been a lot more dead cops on the road if not for that weapon," said Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Rolf Parkes. "After their capture, the suspects stated their intent was to fight to the death."
The next day, three of the gunmen were arrested. The fourth, Manuel Delgado (Belisaro's brother), was killed in a shootout with a Los Angeles County Sheriff SWAT Team in the foothills. In all, eight officers had been wounded and one killed. The three arrested suspects, George Wayne Smith and brothers Christopher and Russell Harven, were convicted of 46 felonies and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Officer Bolasky recovered from his injuries sustained in the shootout and was awarded several decorations for his actions. He later became an officer in the U. S. Air Force. After this incident the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department equipped their deputies with Ruger Mini-14s chambered in .223 Remington as well as the M16 and AR-15. Though the robbery occurred in 1980, such was its impact that even today it is still used in training law enforcement personnel in anti-terrorism and survival.
A street in Norco was named "Deputy Evans Drive" to honor the fallen officer.
A film, Rapid Fire, was made about the shootout.
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- "The Norco Bank Robbery: The Gunmen". Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- Burrows, Danielle (2002). "Surviving terrorism: shot five times by bank robbers, an Air Force officer tells his story, offering candid advice how to avoid being a victim of terrorists". Airman. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- "A first person account of the day that changed law-enforcement in Riverside County forever". Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- A documentation of the shootout
- Riverside sheriffs association account
- Related news article about event