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Infamous Police Shootouts in U.S. History

Police shootouts, are about the closest thing to warfare as U.S. citizens typically experience. They terrorize both the lawmakers and the civilians who find themselves witnessing gunfire and even explosions. Here are a few shootouts that are infamous in the collective memory of this country.

The 1985 MOVE Shootout and Subsequent Fire

MOVE is a commune style group that preaches against technology and for living in harmony with the Earth. However, they were not averse to using violence. Their name is not an acronym for anything, though their members do all adopt the last name "Africa." The group is still active as of 2016.

On May 13, 1985, police approached the home of the MOVE group on Osage Ave. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Neighbors had been complaining of loud preaching and anti-American sentiment being broadcast from the house. They also complained of trash strewn in the yard for making compost and that there were nude children walking around the property. The group was known for a previous shooting and killing of a local police officer.

The police were met with resistance while attempting to search the property. They initially gassed the house in response, while the fire department doused the roof with water cannons. MOVE members fired shots at police, who fired back. Eventually, police dropped a bomb on the house, which set fire to explosives the group already had in the home. Five children perished in the fire while hiding in the basement. Six adult members also died. There were only two survivors–one adult and one child.

The fire went out of control and burned 61 houses. In all, roughly 50,000 rounds were fired in the MOVE home. The city has had to pay roughly 50 million dollars in damages to date.

Jerry Dove and Ben Grogan

1986 FBI Miami Shootout

On April 11, 1986, FBI Agents Ben Grogan and Jerry Dove spotted two men who were suspected of a string of bank robberies sitting in a car in Miami. The agents pursued the men, who fled in their vehicle. Eventually, the men came to a stop and fired at the two agents with .357 pistols, rifles and a shotgun. Despite the arrival of backup, the heavy arms fire cornered the two agents.

At the time, the FBI agents had smaller caliber pistols than those they are issued now. They hit the gunmen repeatedly during the exchange, but their bullets were not enough to stop them. Both Grogan and Dove were killed during the firefight. Five more agents were wounded and agents eventually killed both William Matix and Michael Platt–the perpetrators. Because of the result of this shootout, police and FBI forces across the country were given better weapons.

1980 Norco Bank Robbery

In terms of property damage, deaths and injuries, this shootout seems like something only Hollywood could produce. However, it did not happen in the studios of Hollywood. It happened for 25 miles across Norco and into San Bernardino, California. It all began on May 9, 1980 after 3 p.m., when police got a call that four men were holding up the Security Pacific Bank while one stood outside as a lookout. Deputy Glyn Bolasky was the first to arrive at the scene.

When Glyn Bolasky pulled up to the scene, he the lookout immediately shot at him. He put his car in reverse, eventually stopping and taking cover behind it. The four other robbers came out of the bank with roughly 20,000 dollars and R-15 machine guns. They all shot at the pinned officer and then jumped in their getaway van. Bolasky returned fire into the van with his shotgun, killing the driver and effectively stopping the van in the process. Other officers arrived and helped get Bolasky out of the area. He had been shot and was bleeding enough to go into shock by the time he was driven to the hospital. There were 47 bullet holes in his car.

The robbers were able to steal a truck. They left behind their van, the money, 2,000 rounds and 15 bombs that could have changed that day's outcome. Police chased them for 25 miles. The suspects fired at every patrol car they came across, even dropping grenades into the road. They managed to shoot a police helicopter, forcing it to land. In the end, they stopped the truck and ambushed Deputy Evans, who was killed. After this, the killers dispersed into the woods. Two days later, three were captured and another was killed by SWAT. In all, 33 police cars were damaged or destroyed, one helicopter was damaged, three criminals were dead and nine officers were injured. There were also civilian casualties.

The 1993 Waco Siege, Shootouts and Fire

The Waco Siege and shootouts of 1993 are arguably the most infamous events on this list. The story involves alleged overuse of force by government law enforcement agencies, alleged child abuse, molestation and rape by the criminals involved, the deaths of numerous ATF agents, children and adult Branch Davidian cult members. The situation lasted 51 days and appalled the world.

Leading up to February of 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms received information that the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas had amassed close to 200,000 dollars in weapons, ammunition and explosives. There were also allegations that the cult leader, David Koresh, was having sex with minor cult members. Later evidence suggested that some of the children on the Branch Davidian "Ranch Apocalypse" were the result of illegal relations with minors.

On February 28, 1993, the ATF arrived at Ranch Apocalypse to serve a search warrant. The cult appeared to have known of the ATF's impending arrival. A two-hour shootout ensued, during which the ATF was unable to serve or carry out the warrant in their possession. Four ATF special agents and six cult members died in the firefight. Sixteen additional ATF agents are wounded.

Following the shootout, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the situation. A siege began which involved strange requests from David Koresh, video showing some of the minors he allegedly engaged in sexual acts with, hostage negotiations that Koresh continued to drag out, psychological tactics by the FBI in an attempt to get people to leave the ranch, the release of some women and children and the gathering of heavy firearms and tanks by the federal authorities.

On April 19, 1993, around 6 p.m., law enforcement began pumping tear gas into the compound. They continued this for four hours, but no one left the ranch. It is assumed that gas masks were used within the compound. There was more shooting between police and Branch Davidian members, but the real danger came at around noon when three fires began in the ranch. The FBI insists that the cult members started the fires, while the few survivors say the police started them, whether on accident or on purpose is unknown. In the end, 75 cult members died and only nine survived.

These are a select few of the many police shootouts that have occurred in U.S. History. Other notable shootouts include the North Hollywood Shootout, the Newhall Massacre, the Battle of Barrington and the Symbionese Liberation Shootout.


Moore, Martha T., 1985 Bombing in Philadelphia Still Unsettled, retrieved 8/1/11,

FBI to Commemorate Bloody 1986 Miami Shooting, retrieved 8/1/11,

The Norco Bank Robbery, retrieved 8/1/11,


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