How the Terror of the Televised North Hollywood Bank Robbery Shooting 20 Years Ago Changed the LAPD and Policing

Twenty years ago Tuesday, the bravery and boldness of LAPD officers gave a badly needed shine to the image of a department that had been sullied by the beating of Rodney King, the loss of control in the Los Angeles riots and the investigative missteps that became fodder for O.J. Simpson’s defense. (Credit: Frank Wiese / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty years ago Tuesday, the bravery and boldness of LAPD officers gave a badly needed shine to the image of a department that had been sullied by the beating of Rodney King, the loss of control in the Los Angeles riots and the investigative missteps that became fodder for O.J. Simpson’s defense. (Credit: Frank Wiese / Los Angeles Times)

It began as just another gorgeous L.A. day. Then, shortly after 9 a.m., a spectral scene of combat popped onto TV screens across the city.

The North Hollywood shootout ended with the two perpetrators — Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., 26, and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu, 30 — dead in the street. Eleven officers were wounded, but none killed. One of the bank robbery suspects is seen on the ground where he was shot by police in an exchange of gunfire. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The North Hollywood shootout ended with the two perpetrators — Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., 26, and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu, 30 — dead in the street. Eleven officers were wounded, but none killed. One of the bank robbery suspects is seen on the ground where he was shot by police in an exchange of gunfire. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Two armor-clad figures standing calmly outside a bank were spewing machine gun fire at a swarm of police officers shooting back with pistols from behind car doors and trees.

Within minutes, the parking lot outside the Bank of America on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood was on television screens across the country, as disbelieving viewers watched the battle unfold on live feeds from network helicopters circling overhead.

For 44 minutes, out-gunned officers engaged the bank robbers, dodging barrages of high-powered bullets, rescuing their wounded and peppering their targets with hundreds of shots that bounced off harmlessly.

Click here to read the full story on LATimes.com. 

The assault on police shocked law enforcement across the country, prompting a widespread trend to beef up police armament. It also inspired Los Angeles and other cities to enact their own gun control measures when the state failed to do so. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The assault on police shocked law enforcement across the country, prompting a widespread trend to beef up police armament. It also inspired Los Angeles and other cities to enact their own gun control measures when the state failed to do so. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)