Behind the counter at window 12, the teller saw the bandits enter, she dropped below the counter and pressed the hold-up alarm button.
Inside the banks safety deposit room were four customers and a staff member, they heard the commotion but unsure of what to do they remained still. Matasareanu came through the door with purpose, sidestepping slightly to his left.
Phillips came close behind him, pushed the ATM customer down to the tiled floor, and then raised his rifle.
Along with the security guard several customers and staff had noticed the disturbance in the ATM lobby. Waiting in the teller line was Anita Hernandez and as the gunmen and their unwilling hostage came storming into the bank she remembers seeing "This huge monster, this guy in black, with a big ol' rifle pointed down." [The person she comments about here is Matasareanu].
Phillips looked over at the crouching security guard, who abandoned his radio and laid flat on the floor. Phillips hadn't forgotten about him though.
It is unclear who fired the first shot (presumed to be from Matasareanu's weapon) but witnesses remember hearing three or four single shots and then volleys of automatic fire, interspersed with Matasareanu shouting:
"EVERYBODY DOWN! MOTHERFUCKER, GET DOWN BEFORE I KILL YOUR ASS!"
Sixteen year old Matthew Shapiro, in the bank with his father, remembers hearing Phillips yell:
"THIS IS A FUCKING HOLD-UP! EVERYONE DOWN MOTHERFUCKERS!"
Bursts of gunfire continued to ravage the interior of the bank, customers dropped to the floor, cashiers hid behind their counter, children screamed in fear, silent prayers were offered.
Outside the bank in the south lot officers Farell and Perello had deployed approximately 15 feet apart, and a clearly agitated Farrell continued his commentary:
"...Laurel Canyon north of Kittridge, we have shots fired."
Despite fearing for the safety of those in the bank, Farrell continued his broadcast, calling for and deploying officers to strategic locations around the banks perimeter.
The robbery was eight seconds old, police officers at the North Hollywood station which was a mere 1.5km away were starting to mobilize but back inside the bank the gunfire continued.
Fausto Serratos, a local resident who had entered the bank only scant seconds before the gunmen recalls the sounds of Phillips deep voice barking orders and "The loudest gunfire I have ever heard."
Matasareanu moved approximately eight feet northwest inside the door, and whilst customers were all scrambling to lay down, 79-year old Mildred Nolte was understandably slower than the rest.
Matasareanu cocked his arm back and struck the elderly woman backhanded across the face, knocking her glasses and headscarf off as the blow landed.
"I guess I didn't get down fast enough" she later recalled.
Matasareanu reached the door that led into the teller enclosure, the door, like the "bandit barriers" that separated the teller from the customer, it was made from a 1 and 1/4 inch thick bullet resistant polycarbonate and acrylic composite panels. Designed to stop any pistol round up to and including a .44, it was to prove no match for Matasareanu's rifle.
He squeezed the trigger and the carefully aimed burst smashed the heavy plastic door around the lock, he now had access to the teller area and the vault, one thing remained to do, find the person who held the keys to the vaults day gate.
Shapiro, curled up on the brown tile floor with his nostrils full of gun-smoke, heard Matasareanu shout "GET THE MONEY OR WE KILL YOU."
John Villagrana, the branch's assistant manager stepped forward, Matasareanu demanded he open the vault, as the pair of them walked behind the teller line to get the second set of keys Matasareanu struck him in the head with the folding wire-frame stock of his weapon, his intent was clear, Villigrana, trying to placate the gunman, told him "I'm doing what you want!"
Outside the bank, the second security guard returned from the south parking lot, accompanied by three would be customers, it would appear that the sound of the gunfire had somehow been misplaced by these people, approaching the south western doors the security guard pulled the glass door open and heard Phillips shouting commands to stay down at the thirty plus occupants of the bank.
It appears he never received his partner's warning message, he turned tail with the three civilians and beat a hasty retreat back through the south lot where they were met by police officers who guided them to safety.
The five people located in the safety deposit box room were ordered out, to join the terrified customers in the bank lobby. "MOVE IT, MOVE IT!" shouted Matasareanu as they slowly filed passed him, he raised his weapon and let loose another salvo into the air to prompt them to move faster.
Compliance was complete, in a little under a minute the gunmen had entered and taken control, all that remained now was to get the money and make good their escape.
Phillips remained in the lobby striding up and down, his weapon at port-arms, making sure the cowering customers and staff behaved exactly as he wanted them to.
Arriving in the north lot Tracey Fisher, a 28 year old local, heard the
She had intended to visit the ATM's to get money to buy her boyfriend a present for his birthday, in the rear seat of her car was her faithful golden retriever, D.O.G.
Fisher drove back out and across the road into the lot of the Del Taco store north of the bank, she called 911 and was informed by the operator that the police were aware of the situation and were responding to the location.
Unsure of whether to leave the scene because she was a witness she waited until the first units arrived at the northern side of the bank.
Her day could have gone a lot different if she had been but two minutes earlier, in hindsight she would have been a lot safer inside the bank despite the robbery. She was about to become trapped dead centre in the middle of a war zone.
Farrell continued his transmission, informing the despatch and the approaching units as to his location and where he wanted inbound units to set up. He called for a unit to the north side of the property, one to join him on the south side, one to take up position at the rear and for one to safely take up position opposite the bank's entrance.
At approximately 09:19am, and 126 seconds after Officer Farrell's call for assistance, Detectives Tracey Angeles and William Krulac entered the Hughes lot opposite the bank. They found Jose Haro, the 63 year old owner of Prestige Locksmiths busy at work in his workshop situated on the edge of the Hughes parking lot, a mere 200ft from the bank's doors. They ushered him out and directed him toward the stores in the strip mall.
Detective Krulac later recalled that "We felt we had a couple of guys in the bank with nothing but handguns, so we felt pretty secure being across the street behind the kiosk."
171 seconds after Farrell's initial transmission, (15-L-40) Sgt. Larry "Dean" Haynes pulled his cruiser across the southbound lane at the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Archwood Street.
Tracey Fisher spotted the officer at the Archwood intersection and left her car to inform him of what she had seen, also approaching was Michael Horen and Barry Golding, they too had heard the gunfire.
Twenty five seconds after arriving on scene and whilst trying to take stock of the situation and deal with the concerned citizens, Haynes noticed the door of the bank swing open and somebody step out of the ATM lobby.
"Be advised I think that somebody just came out of the front door of the Bank of America"
Phillips it appeared, was curious.
Whether the lack of traffic moving on Laurel Canyon tipped him off, intuition, or whatever other reason, he stepped out of the north door, exited the ATM lobby and stood on the sidewalk looking around, he appeared neither surprised nor intimidated.
What he would have seen at this point would have been misleading, only Haynes cruiser in the Laurel/Archwood crosswalk would have been visible (with perhaps one or maybe two others that were present at or around that time in the Laurel/Kittridge intersection south of the bank).
He knew they had been sprung and that his plans of the last ten months would now be tested. What he could not of known is the sheer volume of officers who were already at the scene but unspotted by him or the amount that would continue to flood in to the area.
He surveyed his surroundings, and without a shot being fired he turned around and strode back into the bank.
Haynes, a then 16 year veteran of the LAPD would be joined approximately three minutes after his own arrival on the scene by Van Nuys officer Martin Whitfield (9-L-89), Whitfield would pull his car within seven feet of Haynes' rear bumper.
Both men and their vehicles would be primary targets of what was to follow.
Back inside the bank the troubles were escalating.
Due to armed robberies growing to epidemic proportions banks had implemented many security measures to combat the "armed takeover" style of bandits.
Matasareanu was just finding this out, and was not best pleased.
When cash deliveries were made to the bank the money was broken down into separate lockable boxes, called Burgher Boxes, this was to deter the "snatch-and-run" and to slow down the organised styles of armed robbers.
Matasareanu and Villagrana were alone in the primary vault, Matasareanu ordered the nervous manager to open the boxes and fill the black holdall he had dragged in with him.
There was a problem.
The North Hollywood branch had not yet had its bulk delivery, another measure instigated by BoA, delivery times were varied to further thwart bandits. There was money there, but not in the quantities the gunmen had expected.
Phillips strode the lobby, remaining close to the northern door, all the while shouting at the terrified customers.
At one point he stopped to strike a customer in the left temple and cheek because he wasn't looking directly down at the floor.
He hadn't forgotten the security guard either.
Phillips stepped over to him, placed his foot on the guard's neck, pointed the muzzle of his weapon at his neck and told him:
"IF YOU MOVE, MOTHERFUCKER, I WILL KILL YOU. WHEN I TELL YOU, I WANT YOU TO MOVE ALL THESE PEOPLE TO THE VAULT."
The guard nodded his head. Phillips walked off, shouted: "NOBODY LOOK AT ME OR I WILL KILL YOU!" and began shooting again.
All the while he knew what was waiting for them when they would exit the bank.
Outside, LAPD units were racing toward the bank 'Code 3' (Emergency call: Lights & Siren).
Officer Edward Brentlinger pulled his vehicle to the curb at the entrance to the BoA's north lot.
As he exited his vehicle he heard the fully automatic gunfire from inside the bank.
"This was completely automatic, man. They were just blasting away. There were more bullets than there could have been people in the bank, and it just seemed like they were shooting a lot."
Unsnapping his service weapon from his holster he made the tactical decision to abandon his vehicle and take up position a few feet to his left at the east boundary wall of the bank.
Returning to the bank vault Matasareanu had John Villagrana in an awkward place; the 6ft, 283lb menace was not happy, and Villagrana was alone with him. If something was going to tip this guy over the edge, Villagrana would face it alone.
The bank hadn't yet received its delivery of cash, a measure implemented by BoA due to the epidemic of robberies suffered by their branches, including, the two takeovers in Van Nuys and Winnetka the previous year perpetrated by Phillips and Matasareanu. The bandits were finding out that they had become victims of their own success.
"I'm not emptying the amount of cash maybe he was expecting. I can feel it in his tone, now he's getting even more aggressive saying 'WHERE'S ALL OF IT? I WANT YOU TO OPEN UP ALL OF IT!'"
Villagrana tried to explain that the morning delivery hadn't yet arrived. Matasareanu wasn't buying it.
In a petulant display of temper, he pointed his rifle into one of the Burgher boxes and opened fire.
The blast noise in such an enclosed space was horrific. Villagrana, although trained to remain calm during a robbery, was having a hard time dealing with what was in front of him.
"And I can see he's not believing me, cause all of a sudden he got very quiet but now he's putting his nozzle (muzzle of weapon) on me"
Matasareanu raised the level of intimidation, believing Villagrana was holding out on him. The warning shots had been fired, the message to Villagrana was clear "More money or you die."
"I was thinking 'Well, you know? this is it! This is really it for me now. Wow can't be, it's too soon you know? I didn't even say goodbye to my daughter.'"
Phillips remained in the lobby, striding back and forth barking instructions to the terrified customers and staff "STAY DOWN! DONT LOOK AT US!" and occasionally checking his stopwatch.
Cue Officers James Zboravan and Stuart Guy.
Zboravan, a raw rookie or 'boot' in LAPD parlance, who had only graduated from the academy the previous December was full of enthusiasm for the job, his was to be a particularly brutal baptism.
"My goals were to finish probation as a rookie, get as much knowledge base as possible, and then work a variety of assignments and have a long healthy career."
The two officers (Zboravan & Guy) and two detectives (Angeles & Krulac) maintained position behind the key shop, they had arrived within minutes of Farell's initial '2-11' and completed (so they thought) the inner containment around the bank. There was now officers stationed at all points covering the bank.
Haynes & Whitfield to the north.
Farrell & Perello to the south.
Brentlinger to the northeast, and...
Zboravan, Guy, Angeles & Krulac roughly opposite the banks doorway to the west.
Reinforcements were still flooding in, the call had stated AK47s, this was not your average robbery, and whatever was in that bank was going to be coming out in a few minutes. Average is not a word that sums up any part of the response from either party that day.
Inside the bank, Villagrana had bagged up $303,305, but because of Matasareanu's insistence that he "Wanted it all", well, he got all of it.
And that included three dye packs.
Whether these were magnetically activated or radio frequency activated dye packs is unknown (banks are obviously very tight-lipped about their security measures). What is known is that they would activate approximately six feet outside the bank's door.
Matasareanu, having no time to check the old adage 'If it don't bend, it don't spend', began dragging the nylon bag out of the vault.
Phillips voice was heard again.
"OPEN THE DOOR! OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!"
He was urging a member of staff to open the undamaged door at the south end of the teller line.
Phillips prodded the security guard:
"MOVE THESE PEOPLE TO THE VAULT...NOW!"
A female Bank of America employee took matters into her own hands, urging the terrified customers into the relative safety of the vault.
Once the customers were herded into the vault area the heavy door was pushed almost closed, several tellers were allegedly cut from the group and left in the bank lobby to fend for themselves.
After this moment there came an anomaly, a period of time that cannot be accounted for.
Phillips exited the bank from the northeast door and would proceed to initiate the firefight with first responders, Matasareanu appears to have remained inside for a further four minutes.
His actions during those four minutes are unknown yet do not seem to have been spent shooting at the loading door of the ATM machine as has been portrayed in certain modern media reconstructions; in fact it is questionable whether this actually happened as the FBI files hold no mention of it and list the affected areas as "Vault Only". The vault and the ATM safe room are two very separate and distinct areas, not to be confused that one may be an annex to the other.
One possibility exists that Phillips informed Matasareanu of the police waiting for them outside only when he exited the vault.
It would seem that the duo had further refined their modus operandi, for they no longer touched the cash held in the teller drawers as Phillips had done the year previous. Had he picked up a dye pack in one of those jobs? Or was it something simpler? Like the fact he knew the police were outside so he remained in the customer lobby and closer to the doors in case they decided to try enter the building? Unfortunately this is one of the many unknowns.