May 9, 1980 – The Norco Shootout

Four men walked into the Security Pacific Bank in Norco, Calif., around 3:40 p.m. on May 9, 1980, demanding money. After taking $20,000, the men, along with an accomplice waiting outside, attempted to get away in a van. A Riverside County sheriff’s deputy was already on the scene, and when they saw him, the robbers opened fire on him and his vehicle. Once in the van, the men attempted to flee, but the officer shot the driver of the van, Belisario Delgado, killing him and causing the van to crash into a telephone pole guy-wire. The four other robbers emerged from the van, firing at the deputy with a variety of guns, hitting him five times. The deputy would survive his injuries.

More officers were soon on the scene and continued the gunfight with the group, who soon commandeered a truck in another attempt to get away. As police pursued them, the men threw homemade bombs at the police cars and fired at pursuing helicopters. By the time the chase ended, they’d damaged 33 police vehicles, including a helicopter. The officers then set up an ambush. Deputy James Evans was one of the first sheriffs to arrive at the ambush point, and he was shot in the head and killed. Eight other officers were wounded during the shootout. When an officer arrived with an M16, the robbers fled into the nearby woods.

Three of the men, Christopher Harven, Rusell Harven, and George Smith, were apprehended the following day. Harven and Smith had been shot prior to fleeing. The fourth robber, Manuel Delgado, was killed in a shootout with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team. The Harven brothers and Smith were convicted of 46 felonies and sentenced to life in prison.

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