When truth is on par with fiction, it’s not usually in a good way. But even then, sometimes there are moments that remind us God is present.
In five bite-sized parts, Shootout: The Battle for North Hollywood, an Audible Original podcast, tells the true story of the shocking 1998 clash between bank robbers Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu with the Los Angeles Police Department. As wild as an action film, for those of us who don’t know the story, it seems implausible and thus all the more chilling.
On a normal February morning the residents of North Hollywood were going about their Friday routines. The manager of The Bank of America had no idea that his branch was about to become the center of a warzone, nor could the various police officers and dispatchers know that they were about to participate in history. Across the street, a dentist watched in horror as his day went from mundane to life-changing.
Told by many of the people who were there, the cast is large, and a good portion of the first episode is just introductions. As the series continues, more witnesses come on to tell their part of the story. However, thanks to narrator Maureen O’Connell, keeping track of who is who doesn’t become overwhelming. Stories like this are best told first hand rather than through dramatic recreations or by those who have only studied the events.
Arguably one of the most violent gunfights in the history of U.S. law enforcement, an estimated 2,000 rounds were fired. The fact that the only fatalities were the two robbers themselves is nothing short of miraculous. One of the survivors claims that if you don’t believe in God, you need only consider the fact that he is still alive as proof.
No one who survived that day, whether on the scene, in the dispatch center, or fearing for a loved one, escaped without scars. Though sickness and death have been much on our minds this past year, these witnesses came face to face with their own mortality in a way few of us, we pray, will ever have to contend. Yet while we wait for the Lord’s return, death is inevitable.
In Psalm 90, Moses reminds us that our years are limited. We toil, we suffer, and we die. So he prays that God would teach us to make each day an opportunity to grow in wisdom and also that he would satisfy us every morning with his love.
Never gratuitous in its language or descriptions, Shootout is a gripping though not an easy listen. After absorbing the entire series in an afternoon, I was concerned it would disrupt my sleep, as I’m sure it will for many who give it a try. But for all the evil we see or hear about in this life, we can pray as Moses did, “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (Psalm 90:15). (Audible)