NORTH HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous North Hollywood shootout, one of the most violent and bloody days in the history of Los Angeles.
City officials were pausing to pay tribute to the first responders who put an end to the robbery-turned-gunfight. A ceremony was held at the LAPD North Hollywood Station.
Police Chief Charlie Beck and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti thanked the officers who successfully battled the gunmen that day.
"You defined this organization in a time when it desperately needed it," Beck said at the ceremony.
It was forty-four minutes of sheer terror in broad daylight on Feb. 28, 1997. Two heavily armed gunmen opened fire on the LAPD after a botched robbery attempt at the Bank of America branch at 6600 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
Sgt. James Zboravan was a rookie cop, just two months out of the academy. He arrived at the Bank of America about a minute before the first suspect exited the bank. Immediately, he saw the AK47 and a barrage of gunfire that wounded a fellow officer and civilians. It was then that Zboravan, with a shotgun, struck robber Larry Eugene Phillips Jr.
"Seven pellets in the back - one pellet actually went a little bit low, hit him in tailbone, so it made him angry...," the sergeant said. "He immediately spun and began shooting at us."
Zboravan, among 17 to receive the medal of valor for that day, was shot in the back and hip.
Eleven officers and several civilians were injured in that fight, as the robbers unleashed more than 1,100 rounds from illegally modified automatic assault rifles. Bullets flew into the community and into homes.
Patched bullet holes are still evident today.
Most officers that day were armed only with 9MM pistols or .38 special revolvers. Still, they managed to take down those robbers.
Mil Matasareanu was killed on the scene. Phillips Jr. was shot by police seconds before he turned his gun on himself.
Looking back on what happened, Zboravan said dying that day never crossed his mind -- remembering words spoken by an LAPD detective during his training.
"And he talked about the will to survive and not giving up, and that's what went through my mind when I was shot - that I wasn't going to die, I wasn't going to lay there," he shared. "I was going to get up and fight and have the proper mindset to survive."
The aftermath of the shootout changed a lot for law enforcement in Los Angeles. They became better equipped in terms of training and were allowed to carry heavier weapons.