Shootout’s Truck Given to Museum


The boxy black-and-white vehicle was only intended to shuttle money back and forth, but during the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, it was turned into a life-saving shield.

Preserving an important symbol of the incident once described by U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno as “the most violent shootout in modern American history,” the armored truck used as a makeshift ambulance during the heat of the gun battle was donated Tuesday to the LAPD Historical Society’s museum collection.

John A. Cassotta, an executive vice president for Armored Transport Inc., presented the gift at a news conference at the old police station in Highland Park, the site of the museum slated to open there next year.


The truck is a reminder not just of the horrific shootout but also the valiant efforts by officers and civilians to save lives, said Cmdr. David Kalish, spokesman for LAPD.

During the 1997 robbery of a North Hollywood bank, two gunmen wearing body armor sprayed thousands of bullets from automatic weapons at police and bystanders. The armored truck was used to ferry and shield several officers and civilians, who had been trapped by gunfire.

“It was instrumental to the rescue efforts,” Kalish said.

The two bank robbers were killed, and 12 officers and eight civilians were injured in the gun battle.

“If we didn’t have that truck, more people might have been hurt or killed,” Kalish said.

The drama of the shootout and rescue efforts was nationally recognized last year, when President Bill Clinton honored 10 LAPD officers at a White House ceremony for their bravery and called them “true American heroes” who reflect “the best of good professional law enforcement.”

The truck, which continued to transport money after the shootout until Armored Transport recently decided to retire it from its fleet, is the 153rd vehicle that the company has donated to law enforcement agencies nationwide since 1984, Cassotta said. Most of the retired trucks became law enforcement rescue vehicles, he added.

Richard Kalk, founder of the historical society, said he was thrilled with the acquisition for the museum because “it was part of one of the biggest events of LAPD history.”


Having the truck at the museum ensures that “none of us will forget the North Hollywood shootout,” Kalish said. “LAPD history is such an important part of the history of Los Angeles, and understanding history is important for society.”