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Oh this book was all kinds of amazingEven though I m from Southern California I d never heard of the Norco bank robbery I figured it was before my time but my parents hadn t heard of it either Reading this I don t know how we missed itThis is one exciting read While the author takes some liberties here and there with the feelings of some of our participants like one dying oung man was thinkingfeeling those liberties are logicalThe book is well researched but honestly reads like a movie I could see people getting shot feel the whiz of bullets as they narrowly missed other characters and my heart was pounding like crazyA fabulous book that inspired me to learn even about what happened and about a serial killer and a cult I d never heard of beforeExcellent Earlier today whilst researching this very review I ran a google search for Heat movie gunfight and was predictably met with several videos capturing the famous scene from Michael Mann s 1995 crime drama a longtime favorite of mine That being said I was also met with a series of uestions halfway down the page underneath the People also ask section the first of which being Is the movie Heat realistic A week ago I would ve uneuivocally answered no because well it s a movie albeit one loosely based off of a true story Then again a week ago I had et to have consumed Peter Houlahan s Norco 80 The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History To say the book s subtitle lives up to its declaration would understate its spectacular ness But as Twain famously said Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities truth isn t The truths Norco 80 depicts are in a word astonishing The stuff of Hollywood blockbusters or better still great fiction After all who in their right mind would decide to rob a bank with enough artillery to take on and likely defeat the National Guard No one Which is to say the leader of the five person crew that centers Norco 80 was batshit Crazy with a capital C And that is where Houlahan s recounting begins with the story of a man named George Wayne Smith A Vietnam vet Smith is also a devout born again Christian who saw the May 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens as a sign of an impending rapture Alongside his roommate and fellow Christian Chris Harven Smith had begun preparing his property for the inevitable end of days outfitting it with barbed wire digging trenches to be used as bunkers and stockpiling food and weapons Lots and lots of weapons One thing Smith had not done during his exhaustive doomsday preparation is generate any substantial income Mortgage payments fell behind Child support too Their part time jobs as landscapers hardly covered these costs they needed money and they needed it fast And so they gathered up a few other friends specifically Chris s sibling Russ and a pair of brothers Manny and Billy and decided to rob a bank Suffice to say things do not go as planned What follows
*is complete madness *complete madness carjacking turned kidnapping a highly flawed robbery attempt a WWIII like shootout and a standoff in the mountains Several are injured and one police officer is *slain along with Billy and Manny And that s in just the first 120 pages Mimicking the events as *along with Billy and Manny And that s in just the first 120 pages Mimicking the events as unfold Houlahan takes on a frenetic pacing that s wholly absorbing and borderline chaotic Had I been sitting I would ve been on the edge of my seat truth be told I was too amped up to stay still This hardly changed upon reading Norco 80 s back half wherein Houlahan describes the subseuent court trial one of the longest and most expensive in American history of the three surviving bank robbers As if things weren t already strange the trial takes it to new wildly unexpected levels that are all but impossible to summarize in a few sentences With every new bizarre detail unfurled the narrative is pushed into unbelievable territories those typically reserved for fiction What s Houlahan also juxtaposes his true crime drama with a deep dive into the post traumatic stress many of the participants experienced and the means to which many law enforcement agencies took to support these struggles These means are about the only positive result of what was ultimately one of the harrowing events in American history Strangest tooMy uibbles with Norco 80 were minor there are many personalities involved especially during the trial phase some of which get lost in the mix to the point of becoming just names on a page I imagine when Netflix inevitably gets their grubby little hands on this and develops it into the hot new true crime docuseries these details will be tightened up through supers not to mention the actual faces to match them And hey even if that series is never created at least we ll have Houlahan s account to revert to Frankly I couldn t think of a adept writer than Peter Houlahan a former EMT who was a first responder to the Sandy Hook tragedy as well as a holder of an MFA from Sarah Lawrence to recount this unbelievable tale That Norco 80 is his first book is perhaps the most unbelievable fact of all That Twain was clearly on to something eh In May of 1980 in Norco California a bunch of losers had decided to rob a bank They were armed to the teeth with all kinds of automatic weapons and they also had homemade grenadesWhat ensued after the robbery was a massive chase in which over thirty police cars were wrecked by the onslaught of automatic weapons from the bank. A true crime account of one of the most violent bank heists in US history Norco ’80 tells the story of how five heavily armed oung men led by an apocalyptic born again Christian attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in US history forever changing the face of American law enforcement Part action thriller and part courtroom drama Norco ’80 transports the reader back ,
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the Security Pacific Bank at Fourth and Hamner the RCSO dispatcher on page 73 211 isSecurity Pacific Bank at Fourth and Hamner the RCSO dispatcher on page 73 211 is penal andor police radio code for armed robberyAn absolutely outstanding and suspenseful true crime book meticulously chronicling the May 1980 bank robbery pursuit shoot out in Southern California not in Los Angeles but farther east in a desert and mountain area known as The Inland Empire that pitted five heavily and better armed thieves against a small and diverse group of responding law enforcement personnel county sheriff s deputies city police officers and highway patrolmen from various agencies in a particularly violent and nightmarish encounter It reads like it s right out of a Hollywood script but it was the real dealThis is author Houlahan s first book and it is one hell of a strong debut Norco 80 is a confident well researched detailing of the personalities involved the suspects the police the lawyers on both sides the actual incident and the occasionally absurd trial aftermath Drawing on many interviews taped radio transmissions see above investigatory reports and court transcripts Houlahan weaves everything together into an absorbing narrative However I don t want to necessarily make it sound like a fun mindless action movie this was a retelling of a particularly dark day for the involved law enforcement and bystanders involving a tragic line of duty death and also countless injuries But out of said tragedy came a better understanding response for dealing with PTSD among other things 3 Edward 50 the suspects are stranded their vehicle is disabled at Hamner and Fourth Roll help I need an ambulance I m bleeding badly I m not a big fan of true
CRIME BOOKS STORIES ARE NEVER TIED UP NICE ANDbooks stories are never tied up nice and like they are in fiction and sometimes the bad guys win But ever since seeing Dog Day Afternoon at a fairly oung age I have been intrigued by tales of bank robberies gone horribly wrong And they don t get much wronger than the robbery that occurred in Southern California in 1980 when five oung men who were armed to the teeth with semi automatic weapons plus homemade bombs and grenades attempted to raise the capital they felt they needed to see themselves through the comin This is a remarkable book the true story of a bank robbery in Norco California in Riverside County by five men some of them religious Christians convinced the end times were coming Two lived together in a house in Norco where they were digging trenches O the Southern California of the 1970s an era of predatory evangelical gurus doomsday predictions megachurches and soaring crime rates with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all A group of landscapers transforms into a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military grade weapons Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones When it was over three were dead an. Nd fencing the perimeter of their property with barbed wire preparing for marauders to come for their caches of food weapons and supplies They were late on the mortgage owed child support so there may have been a mixed motive for the bank robbery Either way it turned into one of the largest crime scenes ever in the bank and then when they tried to get away spreading out over forty miles in two different counties Riverside and San Bernadino with police departments from both and sheriff s officers from both helicopters and a chase that ended up with them driving up a single file road in the San Gabriel mountains a national park with forty police cars from the four jurisdictions and California Highway Patrol lined up behind them and the four remaining perps firing away The officer in the lead car was killed The suspects fled into the chaparral and were tracked by helicopter dogs and SWAT teamsThey had assault rifles The alpha in the group a Vietnam vet had altered them so they could shoot ammo faster They had pipe bombs other bombs and homemade grenades They didn t need the internet because there was a book that gave detailed instructions on how to make bombs and grenades They had timed out the bank robbery but messed up one guarding a door wasn t and people came in a silent alarm set off by a teller went to the wrong city The bank didn t even have much money So many things went wrong it s incredible that only one person was killedThey messed up getting their getaway cars and ended up kidnapping at gunpoint the owner of a bright ellow truck His legs were bound with duct tape and eventually because the police couldn t be sure he was a victim or a perp he had to roll his way through an intersection over to them This is when things go really wrong and the crime scene gets very spread out There are officers at the bank where one perp lies dead at the wheel of their van And now they re traveling in suburban neighborhoods and on the highway in a bright Desire and Deceive yellow truck with two guys standing up in the back shooting thousands of rounds of ammo indiscriminately and the others shooting from the windows They shot around twenty five police officers They hit a boy riding his bicycle with his friends clipped his finger the author says which I assume is an injury They hit a girl whose dad was giving her a driving lesson They put thousands of bullets into thirty three police cars that were destroyed They shot at the helicopterThroughout the crime which is the first half of the book the police did their best in an utterly chaotic situation They had so many limitations but the biggest one was they did not have assault rifles They had small handguns This is the case that resulted in officers nationwide being armed with assault rifles The robbery happened the sameear PTSD was added to the psychiatric DSM manual and this is the crime that brought to light how utterly uneuipped law enforcement entities nationwide were to deal with PTSD when it manifested in their officers That too would change as a result of the Norco robberyPeter Houlahan does an amazing job of bringing the reader into every part of the forty mile crime scene The book reads like a movie but a movie could never do it justice because it was so spread out and chaotic It s his first book but he s written articles and is an EMT in Newtown CT whose unit responded to the Sandy Hook school shooting although their services weren t needed when they arrived He has also studied PTSD You have to read the book to see how this crime unfolds it s *So Unreal All Too *unreal but too second part deals with the trial and for a little while I was getting bored and wondering why but then it all came together The three captured two died were tried together with separate attorneys The trial lasted a ear not counting the penalty phase and what Houlahan chooses to bring forth makes that section well worth it The author is so gifted the book unfolds as if it s written itself He is at all times master of the material Like the crime ou ve got to read what he tells us about the trial because the truth is so much stranger than fiction There are a few things so shocking that even though this happened I won t give them away here Mostly I was incredulous at how the defense attorneys treated the cops on the stand These men had been through a crime the likes of which has never been seen Many were wounded Some watched their friend die It s very relevant to today because there is so much attention paid to mistakes the police make and they do horrible ones and here they did too but it s so clear everyone did the best they could in the worst of circumstances In the end we learn how some fared No one came away unscathed And the criminals unrepentant and self righteous throughout trying to game the system having no respect for life or property all the while proclaiming their faith You won t read another book like this because there s never been a crime like this and because Houlahan tells a very complex story in an organized and compulsively readable wayMy review hasn t done Norco 80 justice The book is that good As long as my review is I haven t even scratched the surface I wasn t sure it was a book for me and the material is disturbing in many ways but I m very glad I read it I encourage everyone who is interested in true crime religious fanatics who justify violence sociology or anyone looking for a great read one ou won t want to put down to go for it. D close to twenty wounded; a police helicopter was forced down from the sky and thirty two police vehicles were destroyed by thousands of rounds of ammo The resulting trials shook the community to the core raising many issues that continue to plague society today from racism and the epidemic of post traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police force.