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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.
Gangs

Survivalists and the Harrowing Norco Bank Robbery

The young men who engaged California law enforcement officers in a running gun battle in May of 1980 didn't fit the traditional street-gang model, yet presented a deadly threat.

June 14, 2011  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Belisaro Delgado waited in the parking lot behind the wheel of the van. He was in radio contact with his fellow gang members who were now entering the Security Pacific Bank.

An observant employee from another bank across the street saw the four men entering the bank and called the police. Riverside County Deputy Glynn Bolasky heard the radio call only 500 to 800 yards away from the Security Pacific Bank, and turned his radio car into the bank parking lot.

It was 3:40 p.m. and inside the bank the four gang members had taken $20,000 when young Belisaro radioed them, "We've been spotted. Let's go! Let's Go!"

As the four exited the bank, they opened up on Deputy Bolasky and his radio car, blasting out his windows and peppering his car with rounds. Deputy Bolasky instinctively threw his car into reverse, accelerating backwards onto the street. He exited the patrol car, took cover behind the vehicle, and began returning fire.

The four gang members jumped into the hijacked van with Belisaro as the get-away driver. The suspects continued to shoot at the deputy. A well-placed shotgun round fired by Bolasky struck Belisaro Delgado in the head and the van careened into a telephone pole guide wire. The four remaining robbers abandoned the van with the bank money and fired numerous rounds at Bolasky. Over 47 bullet holes struck his cruiser. Deputy Bolasky had sustained five hits — in the face, left shoulder, both forearms and left elbow.

Deputies Charles Hille and Andy Delgado (no relation to the Delgado brothers) had just entered the fight. Deputy Delgado exchanged gunfire with the robbers while Hille evacuated Bolasky and transported him to the hospital.

As other police units rolled in, the four heavily armed robbers commandeered a utility truck. A rolling gun fight and pursuit began with one suspect driving and the other three firing from the bed of the utility truck. The robbers began launching the homemade rifle grenades at the pursuing vehicles. Eight deputies were wounded and 33 law enforcement vehicles were damaged. The suspects also shot innocent civilians along the way.

There were many instances of uncommon valor performed by the heroic officers during the firefight and pursuit.

The 25-mile pursuit ended in Lytle Creek when the gang got far enough ahead of the pursuing vehicles and suddenly stopped and set up an ambush. Officer James Evans' vehicle was the first vehicle to enter the ambush kill zone. Evans was shot in the head and killed. The pursuing officers had been armed with only revolvers and shotguns, but San Bernardino Deputy D.J. McCarty brought an AR-15 to the gunfight. Shortly after he began firing, the four remaining gang members scattered into the brush and trees.

Through the night of May 9 and the day of May 10, law enforcement units crisscrossed the Lytle Creek wilderness. Some of the officers borrowed rifles from campers and target shooters they met along the way. SWAT units from Riverside, San Bernardino and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department participated in the hunt for the bad guys.

The chase came to an end in the early morning hours of May 11 when Christopher Gregory Harven, Russell Harven and Gregory Wayne Smith surrendered to searchers. Manuel Delgado kept his vow not to be taken alive and was killed in a fatal confrontation with the LASD Special Enforcement Bureau deputies.

The careful study of the Norco incident reveals many outstanding training lessons about non-traditional and unusual criminal groups, multiple advisory shootings, IEDs, ambushes, response tactics to critical incidents, and officer survival.

Editor's Note: View an excellent documentary of the Norco shootout courtesy of the Riverside County Sheriff's Association.

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Tags: Norco Bank Robbery, North Hollywood Bank Robbery, Police History


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Rick @ 6/15/2011 10:08 AM

Another example of how law enforcement has counted on an armed public to assist them in catching criminals.

Dep. JJ Golliday @ 6/15/2011 11:46 AM

I had been on the job only 6 months when this went down. I remember attending a training class a short time later and marveled at the bravery of all the participating officers. It inspired me for my 30 year career.

Tom @ 1/16/2013 10:25 AM

My father, Officer William Crowe, was one of the responding California Highway Patrol Officers that took that call. In pursuit, he was shot in the shoulder twice, and thanks to the assistance of Office Doug Ernest, also of the California Highway Patrol, my dad is here today...safely retired.

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