In the vein of Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field, Norco ’80 is a gripping true crime account of one of the most violent bank heists in US history that forever altered the lives of those who lived through it.
Norco ’80 tells the story of how five heavily-armed young men—led by an apocalyptic born-again Christian—attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in U.S. history, forever changing the face of American law enforcement. Part thriller, part mystery, and part courtroom drama, Norco ’80 transports the reader back to the Southern California of the 1970s, an era of predatory self-help gurus, doomsday predictions, mega-churches, and soaring crime rates, with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all.
A group of landscapers transform from pot-smoking, petty scofflaws to a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military grade weapons. Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones. When it was over, three were dead and close to twenty wounded; the robbers had bombed a gas main, shot down a police helicopter, and destroyed thirty-two police vehicles with thousands of rounds of ammo. The resulting trials shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to plague society today: from racism and the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement, to the regulation of assault rifles, to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.