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Cover Story

LAPD Faces Urban Warfare In North Hollywood Bank Shoot-Out

Nationally televised gun battle pits hundreds of officers against two AK-47-wielding robbers for nearly an hour.

April 01, 1997  |  by Greg Meyer

"Bank robbers are supposed to go in, get the money, and leave. If they get trapped inside, they're supposed to take hostages and make SWAT come and talk them out. They're not supposed to come outside and take on patrol officers."

And yet, these two did. All any patrol officer can reasonably do if caught in this situation, said Zingo, is "have enough mental preparation to know that you've got to hold your cover position and try not to get shot. As a supervisor, you cannot send a bunch of patrol officers with small arms into battle with people using AK- 47s. You have to react instinctively and innovate and survive."

"Willpower beats firepower."

During this incident, a squad of officers went to a local gun shop to borrow semiautomatic rifles, and it was Zingo who authorized this move.

"It was a survival decision in the heat of battle," he said. "We had to do something to try to end this thing without innocent people and civilians getting killed."

Four days after the shoot- out, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners took action to create a field test of .45- caliber semiautomatic pistols for patrol officers, and to deploy AR- 15s in each field supervisor's squad car as soon as training and equipment acquisition can occur.

No written article can do justice to the scene that played out in North Hollywood that morning. The videotapes made by a half- dozen media helicopters overhead captured much of the action, and they are "must see" material.

From the heroic rescue of a downed officer, made under heavy gunfire, to the numerous attempted to effectively engage the suspects, the footage is unforgettable documentation of the heroism of police officers.

Farell, the officer who, with his partner, came upon the robbery in progress, reflected on the heroism of that day. "They all did it; rookies and veterans, patrol and detectives."

"It's training, pure and simple. We adapted very quickly to what we needed to do. Every single officer acted the way he needed to without being told. A media guy asked me if I had the chance, would I have gone the other way. I gave him a one word answer."

"Never."

Greg Meyer is a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Police Department with over 20 years of law enforcement experience. He is also a nationally known police tactics consultant, instructor and expert legal witness having written, lectured and testified extensively on use of force, ethics, nonlethal weapons and training issues.

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Tags: North Hollywood Bank Robbery, LAPD, Active Shooters


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