Los Angeles became “the bank robbery capital of the world” back in the 1980s as bank heists had increased by 50 percent within five years. But the Norco bank robbery was unlike others that came before it.
The motives of the men who committed the Norco heist were doing it for reasons other than just money. George Smith, the mastermind, believed that humanity was headed for disaster. After two years in the Army as an artilleryman, he was sent to Germany to work with nuclear weapons.
The End of the World
Later, in California, he met Chris Harven and preached his ideas of overthrowing the government. Smith was obsessed with his religious beliefs, becoming a survivalist and prepared for the end of the world.
He and Harven planned to remove themselves from society, but they needed money. The Norco shootout ensued, which involved a major confrontation between five bank robbers and the police. Two of the robbers and a sheriff’s deputy were killed.
Eight law enforcement officers, a civilian, and two other accomplices were wounded, with major damage caused to at least 30 police cars, a police helicopter, and homes and businesses.
Two days after the shootout, three of the four surviving robbers were arrested in the area. Smith, Harven, and Harven’s brother Russell were charged with 46 felonies and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The legacy that this shootout led was that policing has forever changed. Instead of revolvers, police soon became the most heavily armed in the nation. Riverside and San Bernadino PD (the departments involved in the shootout) were now armed with helicopters and machine guns.
Norco ruined the lives of two deputies, Andy Delgado and Glyn Bolasky, as they were plagued by nightmares, anxiety, and dark thoughts. Bolasky quit and Delgado received a discharge for PTSD.