Arresting Episode Ends With Settlement : Police Say Man Resembled ‘John Goodman Bandit’


Larry Coshow insists he looks nothing like John Goodman, the actor who plays Roseanne’s paunchy and good-natured husband on the television show “Roseanne.”

But police apparently thought so when they pulled over the 44-year-old Huntington Beach mechanic in October, 1992, near a toy store on Springdale Street. Police said they arrested Coshow and his 21-year-old son, Ernie, because the elder Coshow resembled the so-called “John Goodman bandit,” who was wanted for more than a dozen armed robberies throughout Orange County.

The Coshows filed a federal lawsuit in 1993 against the Huntington Beach Police Department alleging wrongful arrest. Ultimately, the city agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement.


“I was madder than hell at the time because I got arrested for something I didn’t do,” said Larry Coshow, who received his settlement check last week. “I don’t really think I look like (Goodman). No one has ever said I looked like the guy.”

Despite the settlement, Huntington Beach officials insist police officers didn’t do anything wrong and that Coshow does resemble the robber, who in turn looks like the actor. Tom Feeley, a Los Angeles attorney who represented the Police Department in the case, said the city agreed to settle to avoid a costly court battle.

“It was a reasonable arrest of both the son and the man,” Feeley said. Larry Coshow “matched the description of the robber, and the son was with a person suspected of robbery.”

Goodman himself said he had no idea that a robber had been named for him.

“Some actors get breakfast foods named after them, others get candy bars. I get bandits. Go figure,” he said Tuesday.

On Oct. 9, 1992, the FBI had been circulating flyers with a composite sketch of the John Goodman bandit, who had been robbing banks, department stores and neighborhood stores in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley and Midway City. The real robber, Michael Angelo Powell of Costa Mesa, was subsequently arrested, convicted and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for a dozen robberies, police said.

The mix-up began when Coshow and his son were shopping at Toy City in Huntington Beach when alarmed employees, who had seen the FBI flyers, thought they spotted the suspect and called police.


“I went to the toy store to buy a birthday present for a kid in my wife’s day care,” Larry Coshow said. “After we walked out of the store and took off in the car, I noticed a bunch of police cars behind us. They yelled at me to pull over, and when we stopped, they pointed guns right at us.”

Both Coshow and his son were taken to Huntington Beach jail, where they were detained for more than two hours. At the time of the arrest, Coshow said, he had no idea why police had stopped him.

“I was worried about my kid because one little mistake and you don’t know what the police will do,” Larry Coshow said. “All I was thinking was, ‘God Ernie, whatever you do, don’t screw up.’ ”

After police determined that they had arrested the wrong men, Coshow said, only one police officer apologized.

The officer “said, ‘Hey we’re sorry for putting you through this mess,’ ” Coshow said. “I really wasn’t too hostile, though, because I know a few police officers, and most of them are good guys. They’re just everyday people.”

But Coshow’s son, Ernie, said he’s still somewhat angry.

“They treated us like criminals,” he said. “They handcuffed us, and pointed guns. I didn’t think it was right for them to pick up anybody just because they look like somebody else. I figured for a false arrest, we should’ve gotten more money.”


The case was scheduled to go to trial before U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler this spring before a settlement was reached, said Jerry L. Steering, a Beverly Hills-based attorney representing the Coshows. Initially, the Coshows asked for $50,000.

“It’s not like the police officers are devils,” Steering said. “They just made a goof and now the city has to pay for it.”

Steering said police officers made their biggest error when they arrested Ernie Coshow.

“There was no justification to take the son to jail,” Steering said. “There was never any indication that the suspect had an accomplice. So when police pulled over the Coshows, they might have gotten away with taking Larry to jail, but they had no excuse to take Ernie to jail.”

But Feeley said police had the right to arrest Ernie Coshow because they “had no way of knowing whether the suspect was operating with an accomplice.”

“We’re not admitting fault,” he said. “We settled it as an economic measure because it would’ve cost more to take the case to court.”

Times staff writer Greg Hernandez contributed to this report.