‘Real Housewives of Orange County’ address reality of coronavirus in new episode

At the end of March, just 14 days after “The Real Housewives of Orange County” shut down production due to the coronavirus pandemic, housewife Kelly Dodd hopped on a flight from Southern California to New York City.

Now, please don’t ask whether she wore a mask on the flight — you know the answer to that question — or if she had a good reason for going. She did, though, have a reason.

“There is nothing that is going to separate me from my man,” she announced after arriving to shack up with her fiance, Fox News reporter Rick Leventhal.

Back home, the other housewives had a different take on Kelly’s travels.

“I just can’t understand that risk for a booty call,” sniffs housewife Braunwyn Windham-Burke.

Kelly, unsurprisingly, gets stuck in New York City and can’t get home to pick up daughter Jolie after her week with her dad, Kelly’s ex.

“I got stuck here,” Kelly tells the child. “I didn’t know it was going to be the epicenter (of the pandemic).”

Oh, if only someone — say, the entire world — could have told Kelly of the folly of her flight.

Still, that wasn’t the dumbest thing we saw this week. That dishonor goes to housewife Elizabeth Lyn Vargas, who shocked her castmates by going full Covid-19 conspiracist. Housewives Braunwyn, Emily Simpson, and Shannon Storms Beador rightly roast her for this behind her back.

Later, Elizabeth expounds on that her theories straight to camera.

“I’m not sure if this is a man-made virus so Big Pharma can make a lot of money, or if this is an actual virus that just happened to come from a monkey,” she says (Take a moment here to imagine Dr. Fauci slapping himself repeatedly in the forehead at what she just said). “But having to stay home is making me nuts.”

Of course, the biggest news in “Real Housewives” this past week was Braunwyn’s off-show announcement that she’s coming out as lesbian. But on the show, Braunwyn literally locks herself in the closet, which is part of a separate storyline in which Braunwyn — who’s been sober for three months — is working through some serious stuff.

Her husband Sean has no idea what’s bugging his wife, but she is not happy being stuck at home with him and their seven kids. She yells at him for violating her new rules on when it’s OK to use the kitchen. She snaps at him when he makes a lame joke about avoiding their booze-drinking friends. She locks herself in her closet, which admittedly, is as big as other people’s bedrooms.

And then, after admitting she’s been “rage-y,” she hauls off and strikes him — off-camera because the housewives are self-filming at this point in the production — over an issue with the vacuum cleaner.

“I lost my temper again, Sean belittling me over the vacuum cleaner,” she says. “I lost it, and I smacked him. I haven’t done that since we were in Aspen,” adding that that time, she hit him even harder.

In the closet, she says she feels trapped partly because of the changes she’s experiencing.

“The truth is there are some big things that are happening that are a part of me that we’ve never talked about,” Braunwyn says.

Other bits and pieces this week:

— Braunwyn responds to her white privilege: The show notes the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed, which along with the coronavirus gave this episode more actual reality than the show ever bargained for. Most of the housewives tweet about it — we know, because the show broadcasts their tweets — and Braunwyn and her older kids are seen marching in a protest in Huntington Beach.

“There’s no excuse for the fact that I’ve tuned this out for 42 years,” she says.

— Finally, there is evidence that housewives and househusbands don’t clean their own homes. While Braunwyn apparently knows which devices make the clothes clean, she admits on camera that — with the hired help staying home in lockdown — she hasn’t a clue how the darn things work.

“I’ve never had to use it,” she says of the mysterious “washing machine.” “This is the first time I’ve gone without a housekeeper since I was in high school.”

Over at Emily’s house, she’s shocked to see her husband Shane vacuuming the carpets. “It’s truly the end of the world when Shane Simpson is vacuuming,” she says. “I’ve never seen that in 11 years of marriage.”

He does bathroom sinks, too! And toilets! And…because the toilet seat was dirty he unscrewed it and put it in the shower, which only raises more questions to which I’m sure I don’t want to know the answers.

— Shannon kicks her boyfriend’s son out of the house for violating her coronavirus lockdown rules, and then is mad when the guy leaves to be with his kid. Later, things get serious when Shannon calls Kelly, weeping, from the urgent care clinic where one of her three daughters has just tested positive for Covid-19.

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We watched Foo Fighters concert livestream from the Roxy: Here’s what it was like

Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters had big plans this year to mark the 25th anniversary of the band.

“That’s right, 2020 was going to be the best year ever!” he said from the stage of the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday evening.

“And here we are.”

Here, playing a live-streamed concert for fans around the world, a show both thrilling and strange, but for fans and Foo Fighters alike, a welcome relief from the drudgery of this unexpected year.

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is singer-guitarist Dave Grohl. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is singer-guitarist Dave Grohl. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is drummer Taylor Hawkins, with singer-guitarist Dave Grohl looking on at left. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is singer-guitarist Dave Grohl. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is rhythm guitarist Pat Smear. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here, foreground, is rhythm guitarist Pat Smear, with Violet Grohl, daughter of head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, singing backing vocals at right. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is drummer Taylor Hawkins. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is singer-guitarist Dave Grohl. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is drummer Taylor Hawkins. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is drummer Taylor Hawkins, center, with singer-guitarist Dave Grohl, left. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is rhythm guitarist Pat Smear. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here, center, is singer-guitarist Dave Grohl. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. Seen here is a shot from backstage. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

  • The rock band Foo Fighters livestreamed a concert from the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, the band’s biggest performance since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its 25th anniversary celebration plans for this year. The livestream was sponsored by Coors Light. (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

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Part of the proceeds also are headed to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to help those in the music industry struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In many ways, it was a typical Foo Fighters show. The band rocked hard on the cream of its catalog, opening the set with “All My Life,” ending it with it “Everlong.” Grohl rambled on about various tangents as he might have at any arena or stadium show.

In other ways, though, it was unique. Not so much for the intimate Roxy stage that held the six guys in the band and four backing vocalists, including Grohl’s 14-year-old daughter Violet. After all, they’d played there in 1995 when the Foo Fighters were just starting out, and more times over the years, including a KROQ-FM/106.7 show exactly six years earlier than Saturday’s show.

The absence of any fans made for a strange moments between songs. After the second song, “The Pretender,” the audio went so quiet and still I thought for a minute I’d lost the feed. Nope! There’s just no sound when the band stops playing and the room is devoid of fans.

“This is usually the moment in the song where everybody sings along,” Grohl said near the finish of “My Hero.” “But that requires people actually to be here.

“So if you hate your (bleepin’) neighbor, and you hate your (bleepin’) roommate, I want everybody to sing here by yourself to your iPad,” he continued. “If that feels awkward, imagine what it’s like being on this stage pretending there are people here.”

It was also shorter than the typical Foo Fighters show, a tight 12-song set over 90 minutes instead of something on the other side of the two-hour mark as you’d typically expect.

“Listen, if I was in your living room right now we’d be up until 5 o’clock in the morning,” Grohl before a terrific take on “Best Of You,” the penultimate song of the night. “I’m not sure that’s how this works.”

Other highlights included the back-to-back performance of “Times Like These” and “Shame, Shame,” a new song off their forthcoming album “Medicine At Night,” the same tunes they played a week earlier as guests on “Saturday Night Live.”

At one point Grohl acknowledged that he and the band hadn’t been interested in doing live-streamed or drive-in shows like some bands have since the pandemic forced the closure of music venues everywhere.

“And then I realized, you know what, the most important thing is to bring a little joy and happiness,” he said.

Later, after wondering out loud, “What is a virtual encore?” he urged everyone watching at home to stay safe, stay healthy, and look to the future when live shows can resume.

“I think if everyone looks out for the other guy, and everyone gets it together, a little care, a little compassion, we can do this together soon.”

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Best of Orange County 2020: Navigating a year unlike any other


Ron Hasse

Last year at this time, few among us attended family get-togethers via Zoom or wore facemasks to do our grocery shopping. But the events of 2020 have required us all to adapt to a new environment.

The Best of Orange County has had to adapt as well. In its 27th year, the annual reader survey of our community’s top destinations, attractions and businesses faced some unprecedented challenges.

For starters, the places we’d go, such as movie theaters and music venues, closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March and have remained so for months. The popular fairs and festivals we’d previously attended didn’t take place in 2020. Restaurants had to pivot to delivery, takeout and patio dining. Some longtime businesses threw in the towel.

However, like our hardworking local businesses and workers, Orange County Register readers didn’t miss a beat. They cast tens of thousands of votes, a 22% increase over 2019. The businesses and attractions they voted for in scores of categories are in the magazine you’re holding right now.

Besides popular perennial categories such as the best beach, burger and city to live in, this year’s guide features readers’ choices in several new categories. The Places to Go + Do chapter has voters’ recommendations for the best family outing and the best Orange County college or university. The Luxury Lifestyle chapter honors the county’s top charitable organizations and the most breathtaking waterfront dining spots. The Food & Drink chapter calls out the best date night restaurants and food halls.

We hope you enjoy the 27th annual Best of Orange County publication and use it as a resource as you explore the county in the months ahead. Many of the locations profiled here are available for you to visit or patronize right now, while others will have to wait until conditions change to reopen their doors.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can be highly unpredictable. However, one thing you can count on is that Orange County will remain a beautiful place to live and experience, with perfect weather, a stunning coastline and amenities that rival anywhere else on the planet.

The Best of Orange County celebrates the attributes that make our community a world-class destination. Even when terms such as “social distancing” have fallen from use, these places, events, restaurants and other businesses will continue to attract people seeking to experience the Orange County lifestyle.

Ron Hasse

Publisher, The Orange County Register

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Best of Orange County 2020: Best sushi

1. Yama Sushi

27782 Vista Del Lago C-22, Mission Viejo; 949-716-9262; yamasushionthelake.com

Yama Sushi uses the freshest and highest-quality ingredients available. Yama Sushi also will not settle for anything but the best and most highly trained Japanese chefs that create the finest sushi rolls on a nightly basis. Diners not only come to Yama Sushi for the terrific sushi and entrees, but also for the environment and swanky ambiance. In fact, Yama Sushi is known for its picturesque views as it sits right on the Lake Mission Viejo.

Yama Sushi also has great prices considering the prime ingredients being used. However, if customers want an even better price on their sushi, Yama Sushi hosts Sushi Tuesday with sushi rolls  40 to 50 percent off the regular price. This Tuesday tradition became a customer favorite in 2008 when the promotion was started, and has been a staple to the business ever since.

Customers also have the ability to choose a variety of ways to eat their food as well. Omakase style is where chefs prepare items of their choosing in front of customers where they can see it being made. There is also a five-course meal that includes a delicious dessert.

Along with sushi, there are also entrees available such as udon or rice bowls. There is also a kids menu available, which has chicken, salmon, and beef teriyaki, chicken nuggets, and kids’ sushi.

2. Full Moon Sushi

Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Tustin

Full Moon Sushi opened its doors to its first location in Fountain Valley in 2001 and ever since then it has become an extremely popular spot for diners to enjoy their favorite Japanese delicacies. From there, the restaurant opened another location in Costa Mesa in 2007 as well as in Tustin in 2009. Full Moon Sushi is known for its great service, delicious food, and wonderful selection.

The staff at Full Moon Sushi says every hour is happy hour because the prices are some of the best for sushi in Orange County. Not to mention it is family friendly, which brings guests with kids back to Full Moon Sushi time and time again. Customers can even buy fashionable hats and t-shirts to support their favorite sushi joint too.

Make sure to try the popular Healthy Full Moon Roll, Hawaiian Roll, or a fresh poke bowl. There are also delicious dishes outside of sushi such as vegetable tempura, sesame chicken, gyoza (pork dumplings), and fried tofu.

3. Shunka Sushi

369 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949-631-9854; shunkasushi.com

Shunka Sushi is a Japanese spot specializing in some of the freshest sushi in Orange County. The restaurant only offers classically trained chefs who are known for carefully crafting authentic items using fish bought directly from Japan every day at the sushi bar.

Shunka Sushi also prides itself on using fish so flavorful that no wasabi or other additions are necessary in boosting the flavors of the fish, vegetables, and rice. The fish purchased at Shunka Sushi is not as widely available as your typical sushi joint has to offer, and the sushi the restaurant has available is prepared with the freshest and most authentic ingredients available.

Guests must also try the wide variety of sake the restaurant has available to pair perfectly with their sushi. Choose between everything from a California cut roll, to a salmon avocado roll, or a spice tuna hand roll. Shunka also serves fresh salads and sashimi including big eye tuna, fresh water eel, and albacore. No menu option will disappoint.

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Best of Orange County 2020: Best apartment community

1. Newport Bluffs Apartment Homes

100 Vilaggio, Newport Beach; 844-277-3455; irvinecompanyapartments.com

The gated community of Newport Bluffs is a richly landscaped development of three distinct villages inspired by Old World Italian towns. The surrounding scenic coastal foothills of Bonita Canyon make for nice views from many of the apartments.

With townhome and single-level options, Newport Bluffs includes 30 separate floor plans; each has fully equipped chef kitchens, a private patio or balcony, in-home washer and dryer and central air conditioning. Some come with private, one or two-car garages and gas fireplaces.

The smallest floor plan is the only studio on offer at Newport Bluffs — a 549-square-foot unit in the Residencia village starting at $1,925 a month. One-bedroom units in the Residencia and Loggia villages range from 683 square feet starting at $2,255 a month to 1,152 square feet over two levels starting at $3,150 a month. There are 15 two-bedroom floor plans in the Residencia, Loggia and Rivoli villages, starting at 945 square feet and going up to 1,395 square feet over two levels; pricing details are unavailable. Lastly, there is one three-bedroom floor plan in Residencia and five three-bedroom townhome plans available in Rivoli; square footage starts at 1,317 square feet and prices at $3,425 a month.

The three resort-style pools with spas include plenty of lounge seating and private cabanas. Adding to the resort feeling are several outdoor fireplaces and seating areas, two lighted tennis courts, a fitness center and aerobics studio, and a clubhouse with a catering kitchen for group events. A unique offering is a private wine room.

2. Broadstone Arden

1951 E. Dyer Road, Santa Ana; 844-379-1841; broadstonearden.com

Broadstone Arden welcomed its first tenants in November 2019, becoming the first residential community to open in Allied Residential’s Park and Paseo district.

With 335 units of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, sizes range from 594 square feet to 1,956 square feet, starting at $1,905 a month. All come with washers and dryers, private patios or balconies, walk-in closets, stainless steel appliances, Nest thermostats and keyless entry.

A lot of attention was paid to design elements in the common areas. “The Instagrammable spaces allow residents and guests to easily tap into the aesthetically pleasing dynamics of luxury living,” said Lauren Blum, Alliance Residential’s marketing director for Southern California.

Community features of note include a rooftop pool with a glass-edge spa, a two-story gym and spa retreat with a Himalayan salt room. A game lounge features an interactive golf simulator.

In the next few months, the green spaces and parks within the community will be opening, Blum said, along with two new residential communities, Broadstone Archive and Atlas.

3. Gateway Apartment Homes

299 N. State College Blvd., Orange; 844-848-2383; irvinecompanyapartments.com

The Gateway apartment homes, operated by Irvine Co. Apartment Communities, has many of the amenities you would find in a high-end resort community: Multiple pool areas, lush tropical landscaping and attractive, stylishly decorated common areas.

Located in the Platinum Triangle area and straddling the Orange/Anaheim border, Gateway offers studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartment homes, some featuring lofts; furnished units are available. The units have a private patio or balcony, many with a view of landscaped courtyards. Monthly rents start at $2,780 for a 618-square-foot studio, $1,925 for a 729-square-foot one bedroom and $2,380 for a 1,077-square-foot two bedroom.

Apartments also have you covered on the work-at-home front, with built-in shelves and computer desks already in place.

Community features include four pools and spas with waterfalls, along with poolside cabanas with private TVs and stereos.

Shared amenities also include fire pits, Viking barbecue grills, sports lounge, two fitness centers, two dog parks, a parcel locker system and a club room with a full kitchen.

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Norco ’80, finale: Careers ruined, police tactics changed by bank robbery and gun battle

Norco ’80
The true story of the most spectacular bank robbery in American history

On July 13, 1980, just over two months after the Norco bank robbery, the Riverside Press-Enterprise began a four-part exposé titled “Staying Alive.” Ostensibly an exploration of lessons learned from the Norco bank robbery, the opening lines of the first article clearly announced what it was really about:

Riverside sheriff’s deputies are angry. And they’re scared. A fellow officer, James B. Evans, was shot to death during a robbery and chase that led into the San Gabriel Mountains. The deputies don’t think their department is doing enough to prevent it from happening again.

Grumbling among the RSO deputies had begun immediately after Norco, many feeling they had inadequate training, weapons and communications. Most of the accusations were aimed directly at Sheriff Ben Clark, in his 17th year leading the department.

Clark contested the accusations head-on. “Riverside’s deputies are as well-trained and equipped as any police officers in the state.” On the subject of guns, Clark conceded, “The bad guys simply had the better weapons.” However, he dismissed the idea that high-powered rifles would have done his men any good.


Parker Esquivel, 10, of Riverside gets a lesson in sighting an M60 machine gun at the Neighborhood Leaders to National Heroes event at Riverside Municipal Airport. (Photo by Melissa Eiselein, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG)

Other police agencies involved thought differently. In the two months following the Norco bank robbery, the Riverside PD had ordered a dozen high-powered rifles. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office acquired three dozen automatic weapons and an M60 belt-fed machine gun capable of firing 750 rounds of .308 ammunition per minute to mount on one of its choppers.

Shortly after publication of the article, Sheriff Clark changed course with a surprising announcement. “It is our intention to buy 40 Mini-14 rifles.”

After 100 years of policing the Wild West with a six-shooter and a Winchester shotgun, Inland Empire law enforcement agencies were now on their way to becoming some of the most heavily armed in the nation. The two sheriff’s departments had gone from a pair of high-powered rifles between them to more than 75 and counting. Helicopters, unarmed before Norco, now circled overhead with machine guns at the ready.

After the flurry of weapons acquisitions was announced, deputies Andy Delgado and Dave Madden were watching television when the evening news showed video of German police clad in body armor holding Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns across their chests. “That’s the way it’s going,” Andy said. “That’s how we’ll all be armed soon.”

•••

Andy Delgado never fully forgave Glyn Bolasky and Chuck Hille for leaving him alone under fire in front of the bank that day. “I had a three-minute gun battle with the robbers. I wasn’t happy being left there to die,” he told the Press-Enterprise.


Riverside deputy Glyn Bolasky was shot by the robbers as he responded to the Security Pacific bank in Norco. (Photo by Riverside Press-Enterprise)

Plagued by bad dreams, dark thoughts and anxiety along with a growing bitterness toward the department, Glyn Bolasky quit the RSO within the year for a job at the Riverside PD. But soon into his six-month field-training program his training officer spotted problems. Bolasky was jittery, his behavior erratic. “I like the guy,” the training officer concluded, “but he just can’t get over Norco.”

On Jan. 12, 1981, the Riverside Police Department parted ways with Bolasky, labeling him a “vicarious liability.” When a reporter asked RPD Chief Victor Jones why his department had not done more to help Bolasky, “Jones said he doesn’t have the budget for psychologists or psychiatrists, so he retires officers when they have mental fatigue.” The comment was a stark illustration of law enforcement’s approach at the time to the problem of posttraumatic stress disorder among officers.


Riverside deputy Andy Delgado arrived at the scene of the robbery and immediately ended up in a gun battle with the bad guys. (Photo courtesy of Andy Monti)

Norco marked the start of a two-year slide for Andy Delgado. Well respected but always fiery, Delgado increasingly found himself in flare-ups, confrontations and shouting matches with supervisors and fellow officers. By the first anniversary of Norco, he was carrying two handguns while out in the field – one in a shoulder holster, one in his boot. He did not try to disguise the reason: “If I can’t count on people in this department to back me up, then I’ll do it myself.”  In February of 1982, Det. Andy Delgado was medically discharged by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for posttraumatic stress disorder.

It had taken 20 months, but now two of the three deputies who had shot it out with the escaping bank robbers at the intersection of Fourth and Hamner were out of the only career they had ever wanted. Within a few more years, the third, Chuck Hille would follow with a related medical discharge.

Twenty years after the Norco bank robbery, the Riverside Sheriff’s Department finally officially honored the deputies involved. In a 2000 commemoration ceremony, Glyn Bolasky, Chuck Hille, Andy Delgado and Rolf Parkes received the Medal of Courage for “acts of heroism performed at great risk to life and limb.” James Evans was posthumously awarded the RSO’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

•••

At 11 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2015, two Islamic extremists armed with AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, thousands of rounds of .223 ammunition and homemade pipe bombs burst into the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and opened fire on an employee meeting inside. Within minutes, 14 were dead and 22 seriously injured. The suspects fled the scene, immediately sparking the largest manhunt in the Inland Empire since the search for the Norco bank robbers 35 years before.

But this time, Inland Empire law enforcement agencies came equipped with more than just a single beat-up M16. Officers swarmed the region in BearCat armored personnel carriers and armed with semiautomatic weapons while police choppers equipped as “gun platforms” circled overhead. Trapped in a suburban neighborhood four hours later, the two suspects were killed in just over five minutes with a hail of 440 rounds of police gunfire.

In the immediate aftermath, local police officials cited the lesson learned from Norco as the genesis of the Inland Empire law enforcement’s ability to rapidly deploy with such overwhelming force. In a 2017 article for Vice entitled “How a 1980 Bank Robbery Sparked the Militarization of America’s Police,” a quote from Rolf Parkes pinpointed the evolution to a specific moment and the actions of a single deputy: D. J. McCarty. “When the suspects heard that rifle, they realized their firepower was now being matched. There would have been a lot more dead cops on that road if not for that weapon.”

D. J. McCarty was awarded the Medal of Valor by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department for his actions on Baldy Notch Road.

•••

A man walks into the room with a sly, almost mischievous smile on his face. He is in his mid-60s with a potbelly, the long beard and hair much as it was 35 years earlier, only now snow white. The eyes are the same, too, squinty with a bit of a sparkle. If he auditioned for Santa Claus at the local mall, he’d probably get the job. But he can’t. This is the Inmate Visiting Center of Unit A at the California State Prison in Lancaster, high on the desert plain east of Los Angeles. Russell Harven has been here a long time, and he is never getting out.


Robber Chris Harven was shot and wounded by Riverside deputy Jim Evans just before Evans was killed by gunfire from the bad guys he’d been chasing. Harven is seen here after his capture on Mount Baldy. (Photo courtesy of San Bernardino Sun)

“My brother is giving me hell for this.” Russ is talking about his older brother, Chris, currently held up north in a Vacaville prison. The two had been cellmates for most of the last 15 years, and he expects to be transferred up to Vacaville soon where they will be again. Russ sees it as a blessing and a curse. On one hand, at least it’s someone he knows. On the other hand, it’s Chris. The dynamic has not changed all that much in 35 years.

The visitor center is full of men in denim shirts and pants, almost all black or Hispanic. If they think about an old white inmate like Russell Harven at all, it is probably dismissively. But there is not one of them in the room who has a conviction record approaching anything like his: 45 major felonies including kidnapping, explosives, armed robbery, 24 counts of attempted murder and two first-degree murder convictions in the deaths of Jim Evans and Billy Delgado.

Harven responds to the visitor’s questions as best he can, even if the answers are simple and uncomplicated. “I’ve spent most of my life trying not to think about what happened that day.” In his letters and as he speaks, the superior intelligence range in which he tested just after Norco is obvious. He refers to himself as having been “indolent” and “fatalistic” in the years leading up to Norco. He says it never occurred to him that it would end up in a gunfight. If it had, he never would have done it. When asked if he thinks he fired the shot that killed Jim Evans, he looks away. “God, I hope not.”

Like his brother, Russell is still angry about the trial. Tried along with Chris and George, all three defense teams accused the prosecution and police of misconduct including perjury and destroying evidence. They stand by their assertion during the trial that it was friendly fire from D.J. McCarty that killed Evans, so they should have gotten 25 years to life under the Felony Murder Rule instead of life without parole. “I am somewhat bitter about getting that sentence,” he says. “I used to be a happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care type. Now I am a bitter old man waiting for my toe tag.”

After two hours, the visitor runs out of questions, so they spend the last hour talking about ’70s rock music and L.A. radio stations they used to listen to, the smoggy days, sneaking into Disneyland – all the stuff teenagers growing up in Orange County did back then. For a while, they are just two guys sitting around talking about the old neighborhood. They try to figure out if they might have gone to some of the same concerts. “What about the AC/DC Back in Black tour at the Orange Pavilion in San Bernardino?” the visitor asks. Harven’s mood changes. Of course he wasn’t there. It was September 1980. By then, Russell Harven had already thrown his life away.

The guard calls out visitor hours are over and Harven stands. Before leaving, the visitor cannot help but ask what is both the best and stupidest question one can ask someone who has done something unimaginable: “Why did you do it?”

“Simple,” Harven says without hesitation. “Because I thought we’d get away with it.”

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Norco ’80, part 11: Gunmen race through mountains, use terrain to fire on officers

Norco ’80
The true story of the most spectacular bank robbery in American history

Parts

Rising abruptly from the coastal flatlands, the San Gabriel Mountains, through which Lytle Creek has carved itself, quickly soar to elevations of over 10,000 feet at the summit of Mount Baldy. As dangerous as it is beautiful, Lytle Creek Canyon can be extremely uninviting terrain. Earthquakes, rockslides, wildfires and flash floods are common. The steep hillsides are covered with California chaparral made up of scrub oak, manzanita, buckbrush, sumac and sage. At higher elevations, the ecosystem changes to scattered pine groves of Douglas fir, ponderosa and sugar pine.

The place has always attracted loners, outsiders and outlaws. Early settlers included gold miners, trappers, moonshiners and horse thieves who hid their stolen animals up the canyon. The explosion of illegal street drugs brought traffickers into the canyon alongside the population of 600 or so permanent residents. San Bernardino Sheriff’s units and the county coroner’s van became frequent visitors.

•••

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies D. J. McCarty and Jim McPheron both had their taste of death in the canyon. So they were not happy when they heard the pursuit of the Norco bank robbers was headed into Lytle Creek.

McCarty had been coming off the two-shift, changing out of his uniform at the Fontana substation when he heard there was some serious stuff going down just over the county line in Riverside. A local boy with a sweeping Glen Campbell hairstyle and irreverent personality, the 26-year-old McCarty had a little over one year on the force.

Deputy James McPheron was just starting his 4 p.m. shift. Tall and soft-spoken, “Mac” was an old-school cop who always referred to himself as a “peace officer.” While tough, McPheron’s nature tended toward the quiet and gentle as compared to the brash and colorful McCarty.

McPheron was on his way to intercept the pursuit when he heard the report that 40-King-2 had been grounded by gunfire. He wheeled the Ford Fairlane patrol unit into a sweeping U-turn across Foothill Boulevard. “I’m headed back to Fontana station,” he radioed. “Somebody get the AR.”

The only semiautomatic rifle in the entire department arsenal was a military Colt M16 rifle seized by deputies from a drug dealer during a high-speed chase. The Army didn’t want it back, so the .223-caliber rifle with full and semi-automatic capabilities hung around the station.

When he heard McPheron’s request for the AR, D.J. McCarty raced to the vehicle yard to retrieve the weapon from the trunk of a sergeant’s unit along with four 20-round magazines. While the department provided no training on the M16, there were plenty of military vets on the force who knew how to fire one. McCarty was not one of them.

McPheron came racing into the vehicle lot and D.J. jumped in the passenger seat. “Let dispatch know we have the AR,” he said, tires screaming as they tore out of the lot. “They need to tell everyone in front of us to get out of our way.”

•••

“We are a quarter-mile from the ranger station on Sierra Road in the National Forest and they are firing like crazy.”

With Deputy Jim Evans’ cool West Texas country drawl and calm delivery, there was no question who was now the lead RSO unit in the pursuit. It was only the content of Evans’ reports that betrayed just how perilous his situation had become since plunging into the mouth of Lytle Creek Canyon. “I think my unit just got hit with three rounds,” he reported. “Fall back, they are really firing now.”


Riverside deputy Jim Evans. (Photo courtesy of Riverside Sheriff’s Office)

Evans might have been the lead RSO unit, but he was only the No. 3 car in the overall pursuit. Coming off Interstate 15, two CHP units had grabbed the one and two spots with Steve Batchelor and Peter Vander Kamp riding together in the lead vehicle and patrolman Joe Haughey just behind. Neither had any ability to communicate with Evans.

Attempts by the CHP units to keep their distance in the canyon were countered by Chris Harven’s ambush tactics. On straightaways, Harven accelerated the truck up to speeds of 50 miles per hour only to lay back on blind curves so Russ, Manny and George could open up at close range when pursuing units appeared around the bend.

It was a deadly game of cat and mouse that continued up the canyon and through the tiny communities of Scotland and Lytle Creek Village. Beyond that lay only campgrounds and raw wilderness virtually unchanged since the days of the Wild West. At 3,000 feet, what had been a clear, warm spring day in Norco now had a bite of cold and a cloud cover moving in. High above them, patches of snow still held out on the hillsides of Baldy.

As he sped up the canyon, Jim Evans could hear an SBSO helicopter somewhere in the skies above him but could not receive their transmissions. The only system designed for interagency communication was The California Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Radio System, or CLEMARS.  Implementation was complicated and the RSO capability was limited to several handheld CLEMARS radios. But at that moment, one of them happened to be in the hands of an RSO sergeant in the pursuit named Don Bender. “Edward-320. We got communications with the chopper,” Bender radioed.

“OK. Is the chopper on Sierra? Can you see him?” Evans responded

“Affirmative, he’s almost to the end of the paved road.”

It was far from a perfect solution, with Bender relaying information between Evans and spotter John Plasencia on 40-King-1. The result was a 10- to 15-second communication lag. But at least Evans now had a pair of eyes to tell him the one thing he wanted to know most: Was he about to get ambushed?

“320, can you tell us how far behind we are?” Evans asked. “We got blind curves. We want to know how far back we are.”

“Just a minute, we’ll check with the chopper,” Bender said. “OK, now he’s moving out again,” Bender relayed almost 20 seconds later. “Continuing northbound on the paved road.”

Seventeen miles up the canyon, the pursuit abruptly slowed as Lytle Creek Road became a narrow, rain-rutted dirt road, suitable only for four-wheel-drive vehicles. Dirt kicked up by lead vehicles obscured visibility. The farther up they went, the worse it got.

Approaching a tight horseshoe bend carved into the hillside, Chris Harven spotted an opportunity to take out a lead vehicle and block the pursuit line.

Evans spotted it, too. “Looks like they’re gonna lay back on the curve, next one coming up on us,” he radioed to Bender. “Have that chopper keep watching. Tell him if they stop, that’s what we want to know.”

Coming out of the bend in the horseshoe, Harven abruptly brought the truck to a halt. Manny and Russ stood up and fired across the ravine at Evans and the two lead CHP units on the other side. A line of bullets kicked up dirt on the hillside just above the hood of Batchelor and Vander Kamp’s patrol car before Chris took off again.

After another 5 miles, Lytle Creek Road passed the mouth of Coldwater Canyon, turned west to cross the wide creek bed and up a grade to a campground known as Stockton Flats. The elevation rose to 6,000 feet.

At another blind curve, Russ and Manny tossed two highly explosive acetylene gas cylinders out of the back of the truck along with a five-gallon can of diesel fuel. As the lead CHP units weaved their units past the obstacles, George Smith attempted to detonate the tanks with rounds from his .308. The tanks failed to explode.

•••

Jim McPheron and D. J. McCarty knew they must be getting close to the front of the pursuit line. Passing a CHP unit, McPheron came up on the rear bumper of SBSO deputy Mike Lenihan, with a civilian reserve deputy named Margaret Martin on board. Lenihan pulled over to let McPheron and McCarty fly past.

That left only Evans and the CHP unit with Batchelor and Vander Kamp between McPheron and the yellow truck. Tipped off that the S.O. unit with the automatic was coming up behind them, Batchelor angled his CHP car toward the side of the road. For a moment, Evans seemed to follow, but then swung back out in front of McPheron.

“OK, I got the lead unit now,” Evans radioed.

Moments later, the road changed dramatically. In all the dust, there was no way Jim Evans, D. J. McCarty, or James McPheron could have seen the sign the Forest Service had posted there: Dangerous road. No unauthorized vehicles beyond this point.

•••

Etched along the western face of the tallest mountain in the San Gabriel range, Baldy Notch Road rises from a 6,012-foot elevation at Stockton Flats to a summit of almost 8,000 feet. Any trip up Baldy Notch Road was a harrowing journey of steep inclines, declines and switchbacks on a single-track dirt road clinging to the mountainside with drops of up to 500 feet on one side and unstable upslopes on the other. Dangerous in the best of conditions, a run up Baldy Notch under heavy gunfire was unthinkable, the stuff of nightmares.

A few hundred yards into the climb, the road horseshoed back on itself. The three gunmen opened up on the units still moving through Stockton Flats. In the narrow canyon, the gunshots echoed sharply back and forth off rock-face cliffs on three sides. Chris Harven hit the accelerator and the truck disappeared around a tight curve.

“I got a bad curve coming up here, what are they doing?” Evans asked.

“He’s still movin’,” Bender relayed, but the delay in getting the information to Evans had been almost 15 seconds.

Evans continued up the grade a hundred yards behind the truck and watched as it disappeared around a bend to the right leading into a straight, sharp ascent. “Are they movin?” he asked Bender. There was no reply. Fifteen seconds later, Evans came around the bend and had his answer.

“OK, we’re hit!” Evans screamed into the mic so sharply it distorted the transmission, making it almost unintelligible. But everyone who heard it knew that something very bad had just happened.

“Jim, talk.”

“Evans, you there?”

“Edward-20, unit with Evans?”

“Evans, are they in the truck?”

“Evans, who is in the truck?”

There was no answer. There was no one left in the truck.

•••

Coming Saturday: Part 12 – Tragedy strikes when the robbers abandon their truck but keep firing.

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Norco ’80, part 9: Violent pursuit through suburbia racks up casualties

Norco ’80
The true story of the most spectacular bank robbery in American history

Parts

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

It was a busy time of day for the working-class neighborhood of Mira Loma, especially on a Friday. Kids were walking or in school buses working their way home through the 4-square-mile grid of suburbia. Adults had ended their workweek, many already watering lawns or outside chatting with neighbors. As the wail of sirens, thumping of chopper blades and sound of gunfire came closer, the residents of Mira Loma knew something very bad was headed their way.

Beyond the intersection of Etiwanda and Limonite, California Highway Patrolman Doug Earnest saw the yellow truck take a hard right off Etiwanda onto 54th Street, the road marking the southern border of Mira Loma. When he got to 54th Street, Earnest slowed to a crawl and edged the nose of his Dodge patrol unit into the intersection. Immediately two rounds tore into the metal hood of his vehicle. Through a break in the shrubbery, he saw the truck at a dead stop in the roadway, three men aiming rifles at him. Doug Earnest had just been ambushed.

Above Earnest’s patrol unit, the newest entry into the pursuit arrived on scene. Riverside Police helicopter Baker-1 with spotter Paul Benoit onboard swooped in 500 feet above the yellow truck, which took a left onto Troth Street, plunging into the heart of Mira Loma.

Chris zigzagged his way through the neighborhood, turning every block to confound any attempt by police to intercept them.

Rolf Parkes was limping his shot-up patrol unit along Marlatt when the truck suddenly appeared, coming off Jurupa. Making a left turn directly in front of him, all three gunmen opened up, hitting his vehicle again. Fred Chisholm appeared from Jurupa Road and skidded to a stop. “You got a flat tire, Rolf,” he radioed. “Pull over, get your shotgun, and come on.” Rolf grabbed the gun and jumped into Chisholm’s passenger seat, leaving the Dodge Monaco dead on the side of the road.

Doug Earnest did not see the truck make a sudden right turn onto 50th Street and drove straight through the intersection. A young boy ran out onto Marlatt, pointing wildly down 50th. Earnest slammed on the brakes, threw his patrol car into reverse, tires screeching, and headed east on 50th over a low rise in the road. When he crested the hill midblock, the yellow truck was stopped just short of the corner of Dodd and 50th. Earnest did not know it, but Chris Harven and George Smith were looking at their own house, assessing their chances of bailing out of the truck and into their barbed wire compound and the safety of the pit.

Chris knew it was impossible, with Baker-1 overhead and cops traversing the neighborhood. He hit the gas and turned left up Dodd, which dead-ended into Bellegrave Avenue, a long, straight, two-lane stretch of road marking the northern boundary of Mira Loma.

Doug Earnest radioed the direction of the truck over the CHP frequency to patrolman Bill Crowe, the other CHP officer in the vicinity. Doug Earnest had been Crowe’s training partner a half-dozen years before and looked after Crowe as he would a little brother.

Following Earnest’s reports, Crowe headed eastbound on Bellegrave toward Dodd traveling at a high rate of speed. Riverside deputy Rudy Romo was several car lengths behind Crowe, with the youngest RSO deputy on the force, A.J. Reynard, just behind him. Above in Baker-1, Paul Benoit could see what was unfolding beneath him. The yellow truck coming up Dodd and the three police units eastbound on Bellegrave were going to reach the intersection at the same time. “Better advise those units on Bellegrave they are approaching that vehicle at this time,” he radioed urgently.

Crowe was 50 feet short of the intersection when he caught sight of the yellow truck speeding up Dodd with Russell Harven standing in the bed firing. The first volley strafed the entire right side of Crowe’s patrol car, rounds going through the front fender and both side doors, shattering the rear passenger side window, and blowing out two tires. Crowe stood on the brake, but his unit continued to skid toward the yellow truck now making the right off Dodd onto Bellegrave directly in front of him. By the time his vehicle came to a stop, he was so close Russell Harven had to point the “Shorty” AR at a downward angle in order to shoot Bill Crowe through the windshield of his patrol car.

The first bullet from Harven went through the right side and out the rear window, shattering it. The second hit dead center, tore the rearview mirror in half and fragmented, sending shards of copper into Crowe’s arm and leg, lodging others under his scalp and in his sternum, and piercing the soft pinna tissue of his ear. Crowe was ducking for cover when the last bullet came through the driver’s side of the windshield, entered his body through his left bicep and exited his back just above the shoulder blade. The truck sped away, leaving Bill Crowe stunned and bleeding in the front seat of his CHP unit.

Rudy Romo had jammed on the brakes in a hail of gunfire at the same time Crowe did. He ducked below the line of his dashboard the instant before a bullet came through the windshield and blew the headrest clean off the driver’s seat above him. Like Parkes and Brown before him, Rudy Romo had come within inches of taking a direct headshot from an assault rifle.

As Doug Earnest approached the intersection at Bellegrave, he saw Crowe’s CHP unit go into a full skid just behind the yellow truck. Then Crowe’s unit seemed to disintegrate before Earnest’s eyes, exploding from the inside out, glass and metal flying in all directions. When Earnest reached Crowes patrol unit, Crowe was leaning to the passenger side of the vehicle, blood coming down his face, in his hair, on his uniform and still-holstered gun. Earnest called his name. Crowe did not respond. He’s dead, Earnest thought, and it’s my fault. I’m the one who guided him straight into the truck and they killed him. Earnest called out sharply to Crowe again. This time Crowe responded weakly and began to sit up in the seat, still pale and waxy but at least somewhat coherent.

“Roll an ambulance to Bellegrave and Dodd,” Rolf Parkes radioed when he and Chisholm came upon the scene. “Officer shot!”

“Copy. Bellegrave and Dodd. Officer shot,” dispatcher Gary Keeter acknowledged flatly. That was six men down.

•••

A.J. Reynard never saw the yellow truck that day. Approaching Dodd just behind Crowe and Romo, a bullet suddenly came through the bottom right corner of Reynard’s windshield. Thinking the gunfire was coming from the field directly to the right of him, A. J. ducked down across his seat and stomped on the accelerator to get clear of the line of fire. He did not know that the men shooting at him had turned onto Bellegrave directly in front of him. Three rounds smashed through his windshield and then it felt to A.J. as though someone grabbed ahold of his arm and jerked it off the steering wheel. When he looked, blood was rushing out of a large hole on the inside of his left elbow.


Riverside deputy A.J. Reynard was inside this sheriff’s car when the robbers unloaded a hail of bullets at him. (Photo courtesy of Riverside Sheriff’s Office)

Still unaware of the source of the gunfire, Reynard reached back up with his bloody arm, grabbed the steering wheel, and kept going, not realizing he was now just feet away from the business end of a “Shorty” AR.

Five hundred feet overhead in Baker-1, a dumbfounded Paul Benoit radioed an urgent message over the RSO frequency. “Riverside, you better tell that unit to back off.”

With Russ Harven about to unload on Reynard at arm’s length, Chris Harven abruptly turned right onto Bain Street. Reynard kept going.

In all, Reynard traveled over a quarter mile down Bellegrave at full acceleration without looking up once, finally skidding to a stop in front of deputies Kurt Franklin and Bill Eldrich manning a roadblock at Van Buren Boulevard.

Moments later, Kurt Franklin was on the radio. “2-Edward-73. I am transporting Officer Reynard; he’s taken a round in the arm.”

Reynard made seven men down.

When Rolf Parkes and Fred Chisholm reached the area of Bellegrave and Dodd, what they found there shocked them. Passing the ruins of four police and three vehicles within a single block, Rolf Parkes decided on a name for the place. He called it “The Graveyard of Cars.”

•••

When they reached the end of the block on Bain Street, Chris Harven made the right turn onto 50th and accelerated, passing their own house again.  With every cop in the Inland Empire now looking for a bright yellow pickup, he decided they needed to swap out their ride.

Turning right up Etiwanda again, there was a small mom-and-pop convenience store called the Can Do Market. As usual, it was busy on a Friday with at cars parked in the small lot outside or fueling at the two gas pumps in front. A railroad crew of about 15 men stood around a picnic table, finishing off their workweek with a few beers in the shade of a cottonwood.

Chris cut sharply into the market parking area and brought the yellow truck to a stop beside a white van waiting to get gas. Behind the wheel of his 1974 GMC van, a Vietnam veteran named Robert LeMay was about to pull forward to an open pump when Chris Harven appeared at the driver’s window aiming the Long Colt at his head. “You better get the (expletive) out of there,” Harven yelled at him. LeMay looked down the barrel of the gun and then at Harven. Then he drove away.

With their intended target now gone and more than a dozen burly railroad workers staring at them, there was nothing left to do but get back in the yellow truck and get away from the Can Do Market.

“Vehicle at this time is resuming its northbound traffic on Etiwanda,” Baker-1 updated. “Northbound again.”

The moment the yellow truck crossed Bellegrave, every cop in the Inland Empire knew where it was headed. Like every bank robber in Southern California, these guys were headed for the freeway.

For the first time that day, dispatcher Gary Keeter sounded almost defeated as he relayed the information. “Northbound, coming to Highway 60,” he said wearily. The men who had just robbed a bank and shot seven cops and five civilians were not only leaving Mira Loma, they were escaping Riverside County entirely. For the last 21 minutes, Keeter had been dealing with a complete disaster. Now he would have to inform the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office that the disaster was heading straight into their county.

•••

Coming Thursday: Part 10 – The pursuit on the freeway and in the air intensifies as it enters San Bernardino County.

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Norco ’80, part 7: Deputy arrives at gun battle before bank robbers flee

Norco ’80
The true story of the most spectacular bank robbery in American history

Parts

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Deputy Andy Delgado cut his siren and crested the rise between Fifth Street and Fourth Street going 75 miles per hour. Scanning the intersection, he spotted the green van off the road on Fourth Street just short of Hamner. Figures darted out from behind the van and disappeared again. Another stood between the open side cargo door and a chain-link fence unloading duffel bags. Andy heard so much gunfire he assumed it must be automatic weapons fire.

Andy swung his patrol unit into the empty northbound lanes and angled it toward the side of the road, bringing it to a stop at a 45-degree angle at the curb 50 yards short of the intersection. He exited the vehicle with his shotgun and stood behind the V of his open driver’s door.

Now he could see more clearly what the men at the front of the van were doing. Three of them were taking turns stepping out from behind the van to fire down Fourth Street, where Bolasky must be. Andy saw they were all wearing military jackets and black ski masks and firing military-type rifles. Delgado thought he must be facing a band of Middle Eastern terrorists. After all, more than 60 Americans were still being held hostage in Iran, where thousands in the streets chanted “Death to America” every day.

Assessing the situation, Andy had another problem. There were people everywhere now. Vehicles were backing up in both directions on Hamner. Motorists were out of their cars trying to figure out just what was going on. Gawkers streamed from the Carl’s Jr. or wandered across the Stater Bros. parking lot to see what all the commotion was about. Andy estimated close to 50 civilians in the immediate area. But for the moment, Andy’s field of fire was free of noncombatants.

Andy lifted the Wingmaster shotgun over the top of the open door of his patrol car and unloaded three rounds of buckshot. One pellet grazed the back of Chris Harven’s neck. Russell Harven felt a burning sensation as a shot of buck burrowed under his scalp at the hairline and tunneled its way beneath the tissue all the way to the back of his head without penetrating the skull.

Another of the blasts from Andy’s modified-choke Wingmaster at a distance of 50 yards haloed George Smith in buckshot, rattling pellets off the thick exterior of the van. George felt something dig into the meat of the inside of his left leg, up high in the groin area. A second struck the outside of his right thigh, coming to rest deep inside the tissue of his buttocks. George felt the warm wetness of blood spreading down his inner thigh.


George Smith was hit in the leg by a round fired by Riverside deputy Andy Delgado near the bank but was able to continue exchanging fire with multiple officers despite the loss of much of his blood until the chase ended on Mount Baldy where he was captured. (Photo courtesy of San Bernardino Sun)

Chris and Russell Harven were through being sitting ducks. Russ moved to a position on the driver’s side of the van for protection, peeking around to fire shots in the direction of the cop who had just put a shotgun pellet under his scalp. Chris lay prone on the pavement, sighting over the barrel of the gun, reeling a dozen rounds at Andy’s radio car. He rolled to his right, ejected the banana clip, flipped it over and locked a fresh one into the magazine port.

Bullets ripped into Andy’s vehicle, one in the hood on the driver’s side and another in the molding at the roofline. A third hit the pavement, sending fragments through the open door he was using for cover as though it were nothing more than a shower curtain.

Andy had six more shotgun shells in a stock sling strapped to the butt end of the gun. He pushed two loads of buckshot and a rifled slug – a one-ounce monster chunk of lead the size of a Civil War Minié ball – into the magazine port on the belly of the gun.

Over the gunfire, he heard the radio transmissions from Bolasky that he had an artery hit and was bleeding badly. That explained why Bolasky was no longer laying down fire on the suspects. But what about Hille? With Hille coming in from Sierra and Andy down Hamner, they should have their suspects caught in a crossfire right now. Andy listened, but there was no sound of fire coming from the area down Fourth Street where he knew Hille and Bolasky must be. A terrible feeling came over him. He could sense he was alone.

Andy racked the first shell into the chamber, stood and fired off both rounds of buckshot. He threw himself to the ground as rounds struck the pavement and the side mirror on the driver’s door shattered, the frame around it exploding. Fragments erupted from out of the dashboard inside the vehicle just to his right. Andy stood and fired his seventh round, the rifled slug, missing the suspects and punching a hole in the side of the bank building.

He ducked down and pushed his last three shells into the magazine port. A chorus of sirens swelled in the distance. Andy took a deep breath, stood, fired two more rounds at the men beside the van and then went back down. All he had now was one slug and his .38 revolver. He set the shotgun to the side, drew the six-shooter and waited.

•••

George gripped his leg to stop the bleeding, but the blood just oozed between his fingers. “Take a bag,” he yelled to Chris and Russ, tossing the duffel bags into the road. The two fired a few more rounds in the direction of Andy Delgado and then grabbed a bag each. Manny let loose a blast from the riot gun and then threw the third over his shoulder. George pointed toward the lines of cars backed up at the light south on Hamner. “Fan out and get another vehicle.”

The three men spread out and moved toward the lines of cars, the Harvens with assault rifles tucked under their arms, Manny with the riot gun at his hip. The scene at Fourth and Hamner became one of total madness as three masked and heavily armed men descended on the trapped motorists, menacingly swinging high-powered rifles as they approached, sending passengers and onlookers running for their lives.

As the others searched for a new getaway car, George Smith flipped the jungle clip at the bottom of the Heckler .308, locked in a fresh 40-round magazine and limped out to the middle of the intersection.

 


Riverside deputy Andy Delgado arrived at the scene of the robbery and immediately ended up in a gun battle with the bad guys. (Photo courtesy of Andy Monti)

When Andy Delgado peeked over the door of his patrol unit, he could hardly believe what he saw. A tall man in a ski mask and military-green duster, pants tucked into black boots, came out from behind the van and walked, no, strolled out to the very center of the busiest intersection in Norco. The man positioned himself right where a traffic cop might stand and coolly surveyed the area. Standing in the wide open, flat-footed and unafraid, the man did not look at all concerned that it had come down to a firefight. There was no question in Andy’s mind that he was looking at the leader of the gang.

The man turned toward Andy, lifted the assault rifle to his hip and began firing. A round entered through the grill, passed through the radiator, slammed into the engine block and fragmented. Shards of lead and copper cut the hood cable in half and passed though the dashboard and into the interior of the vehicle. Delgado lay on the ground as more rounds cracked the sky above him and struck the road in front of him, spraying the area with a lethal mix of asphalt, lead and copper. This is it, Andy thought. This is where it all ends.

•••

A 24-year-old heavy-machinery mechanic named Mikel Linville was driving a company service vehicle northbound on Hamner when he stopped at the light at Fourth Street. The yellow-orange 1969 Ford F-250 pickup had been modified with steel utility cabinets on the sides. Tall cylinders of compressed gas were secured upright behind the cab, welding equipment and tools scattered about the bed of the truck.

Stopped in the far-left lane, Linville heard the popping of gunfire and spotted three men in ski masks moving through the lanes of stopped traffic, leveling guns at passengers. One was headed directly for him. When Chris Harven lowered the Heckler .223 and aimed it directly at him through the windshield, Linville knew it was time to leave. He threw open the door to the truck and sprinted away.

Harven called for the others and climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck. Russ hurled a duffel bag over the side cabinets and scrambled into the bed after it while Manny jumped in the passenger side of the cab.  Chris swung the yellow truck out of its lane and pulled into the intersection.

From his position, Andy Delgado saw the man in the center of the intersection walk to the rear of the truck and hand his rifle up to the man in the back. He seemed to be in no hurry at all. He stepped up onto the bumper and swung himself over the tailgate and disappeared into the bed. The truck accelerated, angling back into the northbound lanes heading toward Andy’s location.

Andy put his head to the pavement, holding the .38 and peering under the patrol car, looking for any boots that might hit the ground.

He could hear the engine of the big truck as it drew closer. There was a rapid Bam! Bam! Bam! of gunfire as George Smith fired the Heckler over the tailgate of the truck, one .308-caliber bullet gouging a deep, five-inch trench in the metal roof of Andy’s unit. The truck accelerated away, up the low grade between Fourth and Fifth streets. Andy grabbed his shotgun off the pavement and fired off his last round at the truck as it crested the hill and disappeared.

“Three suspects fled, a yellow pickup north on Hamner,” Andy radioed breathlessly.

•••

The intersection at Hamner and Fourth was eerily quiet except for the crackling bursts of radio traffic coming from the shot-up police cruisers, the wail of distant sirens. Through the glass doors of the Security Pacific Bank, 18-year-old James Kirkland watched the green van rocking back and forth against the chain-link fence. And then something very peculiar happened. A head emerged out the back window of the van. Moments later, a man with his arms and legs bound in packing tape, squirmed his way out of the window and flopped onto the pavement below. “I’m a hostage! Help me!” Gary Hakala called out.

Inside the van, Billy Delgado’s body came to the end of its struggle as he drew his last bubbly breath. Scattered across the floor of the van behind him was the cause of it all, a sad little mix of wrapped and loose bills and coins amounting to a lousy $20,112.36. A moment later, the van’s engine also gave up its futile struggle against the chain-link fence, and it died too.

•••

Coming Tuesday: Part 8 – Robbers flee the area near the bank, and reinforcements join the pursuit.

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