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Family of robber killed in L.A. shootout sues


Police let suspect bleed to death, attorney says

April 12, 1997
Web posted at: 11:38 p.m. EDT (0338 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The family of one of the bank robbers killed by Los Angeles police in February after a running gun battle has filed a lawsuit, claiming police let the suspect die.

Attorney Stephen Yagman, representing the children of Emil Matasareanu, maintains police officers allowed the suspect to bleed to death after subduing him. Matasareanu had been shot 29 times.

"We know that simple first aid -- putting a tourniquet around his leg or putting pressure on his wounds -- would have stopped him from bleeding to death," Yagman said.

cruiser In a written statement, top brass of the Los Angeles Police Department defended the "heroic" actions of officers during the shootout "with two heavily-armed and dangerous suspects."

More than 200 police officers were involved in the gun battle with Matasareanu and his partner, Larry Phillips, after they robbed a bank branch in North Hollywood on February 28. movie icon (1.6M/43 sec. QuickTime movie)

16 people wounded

When the robbery went awry, the two suspects, who were wearing full body armor, fired hundreds of rounds with high-powered automatic weapons as they tried to make a getaway. TV news helicopters caught much of the action.

Sixteen officers and bystanders were wounded during the shootout. Phillips was killed along with Matasareanu.

Dr. Marshall Morgan, a physician from the University of California at Los Angeles who made an independent review of Matasareanu's autopsy, said it would be "hard to tell" if the suspect would have lived with proper first aid.

dying But Morgan said Matasareanu did not sustain any injuries to large blood vessels and, therefore, would not have bled to death "in a period of minutes."

The two gunman were also suspects in several 1996 bank robberies.

Yagman has filed at least a half dozen lawsuits against police in recent years. He also alleges in the suit that there were six robbers involved in the North Hollywood incident, not just Matasareanu and Phillips. But police say only those two men were involved.

Correspondent Jim Hill contributed to this report.


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