DYING BANK ROBBER'S LAST WORDS TO POLICE: : `SHOOT ME IN THE HEAD'.
As he lay bleeding to death on a North Hollywood street, robber Emil Matasareanu swore at the police, defiantly refused to say if there were other gunmen and told an officer: ``Shoot me in the head.''
The account of his dying moments was obtained exclusively by the Daily News just days after an attorney for Matasareanu's children claimed that the gunman had begged officers for help, but that they let him die.
Police officials deny that they allowed Matasareanu to die, saying instead that they could not allow paramedics into the area until they were sure no other machine-gun-toting gunmen were on the loose.
And the wounded Matasareanu did nothing to allay officers' fears in his final moments alive after the Feb. 28 robbery.
``What's your name?'' an officer asked, according to an account provided to investigators, police sources said. The man asked to be rolled over.
``Pete,'' replied the 283-pound, 6-foot man, clad in bulletproof armor.
``OK, Pete,'' the officer said. ``How many other guys are we looking for, how many are there?''
Bleeding from at least 29 wounds to his legs, buttocks, arms and fingers, Matasareanu looked up at the officer and sneered: ``F--- you. Shoot me in the head.''
It was a taunt that Matasareanu would repeat several times to the officer as he spent the last minutes of his life on Archwood Street, bleeding from a thigh wound that ultimately would cause his death.
Some 70 to 80 minutes after Matasareanu's first discussion with the officer, the paramedics arrived and declared him dead. A Los Angeles County coroner's report sets his time of death at 11:10 a.m., when paramedics were allowed ``to provide medical attention once the area had been declared `clear' by the law enforcement authorities.''
Unclear is whether Matasareanu could have been saved by more timely medical treatment.
``Could he have lived? Our doctors didn't give any opinions,'' said Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Scott Carrier.
Now, an attorney representing Matasareanu's sons has filed a federal lawsuit against the LAPD, accusing the Police Department of having failed to perform its constitutional duty to secure him aid.
The exact circumstances of the shootout - including Matasareanu's death - remain under investigation by the police, with reviews expected by the Los Angeles Police and Fire commissions.
Whether Matasareanu knew he was mortally wounded will never be known.
The attorney for Matasareanu's sons, 5 and 18 months, says that the gunman was ``begging for help'' while police let him die in an act of ``street justice.''
But the officer said that when the gunman finally gave up and was handcuffed and rolled on his side, he gave no sign that he wanted treatment. Instead, he swore at the officer, even lying that his name was Pete.
Police say they couldn't call in paramedics for Matasareanu because they weren't sure the area was safe. Adding to their concerns were several anonymous telephone calls, including one that indicated there were six robbers at the North Hollywood branch of the Bank of America.
``As it turns out, it was a crank call, but that was in the back of our mind, that's what drove our search,'' said one high-ranking police official.
The call came right after the bank robbery and matched some of the events enough that ``at first blush we thought it might be so.''
By the time Matasareanu surrendered, gunman Larry Phillips Jr., 26, had been killed - felled by a police bullet and one from his own weapon, according to his autopsy.
Matasareanu, wounded with what the coroner says were nonlethal wounds to his legs and arms, appeared calm as officers surrounded him, according to an account provided to Los Angeles Police Department investigators.
He wore a bulletproof vest, strengthened with a steel plate. It showed signs of what the coroner determined was fire from small-caliber guns. Matasareanu was not wearing body armor on his legs, unlike Phillips. And that ultimately led to his death.
The fatal wound was to his left thigh.
As he lay bleeding, his taunts subsided. He died about 15 minutes before paramedics arrived and pronounced his death at 11:10 a.m., according to the officers' account.
The attorney for Matasareanu's sons said in an interview this week that the police ``coldbloodedly murdered'' the gunman by refusing to provide him medical care.
``No matter what he said, the police still had a constitutional duty to provide medical care to him, they didn't - that means they lose,'' said civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman, a vocal police critic who was won several lawsuits against the department.
Yagman said that no matter what happened before Matasareanu's death, the police still had the constitutional obligation to make sure he was treated.
Initially, the police said they delayed allowing ambulances into the crime scene because they were unsure whether other gunmen were on the loose and they suspected that Matasareanu was rigged with a bomb.
Yagman said he does not believe the bomb excuse, particularly because officers can be seen on live TV coverage standing around Matasareanu, without apparent concern for their safety.
Seemingly in support of the police explanation for the delay of medical help, Yagman has claimed in the lawsuit that six suspects were involved.
If police accounts are to be believed, Yagman said, Matasareanu's words to the officer are ``kind of the functional equivalent of Dirty Harry saying, `Make my day.' ''
The following is a timeline of the dramatic shootout between police and bank robbers Emil Matasareanu and Larry Eugene Phillips Jr. It marks Phillips' apparent suicide and Matasareanu's verbal confrontation with an officer.
9:15 a.m. - Los Angeles police are called to the Bank of America branch on Laurel Canyon Boulevard to investigate a report of a robbery.
9:30 a.m - Matasareanu and Phillips exit the bank and spray the neighborhood with heavy arms.
9:48 a.m. - Matasareanu drives away from the bank, and Phillips follows on foot.
9:51 a.m. - Separated from Matasareanu, Phillips shoots himself and is struck by police bullets. He dies.
10 a.m. - Pinned down by fire, Matasareanu surrenders. An LAPD officer speaks with Matasareanu, but the gunman tells him: ``F--- you. Shoot me in the head.''
11:10 a.m. - Paramedics arrive and declare Matasareanu dead.
Box: Suicidal shootout (see text)
Len De Groot/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 18, 1997|
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