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Report: Mistakes Killed Bank Robber

April 22, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Covered with body armor and heavily armed, the bank robber was stopped only when police shot him 29 times. He bled to death as he lay in the street for an hour, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police and paramedics at first thought Emil Matasareanu was dead, and then delayed calling an ambulance, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

Matasareanu could have survived had he received ``standard emergency care″ in a timely fashion, said Dr. Marshall Morgan, chief of emergency medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. Morgan examined Matasareanu’s autopsy report for the newspaper.

Police and fire officials adamantly denied the Times report, which also included a reconstruction of the Feb. 28, 1997 shootout.

``I think it’s a ludicrous allegation to believe that Los Angeles police officers allowed anyone to die,″ Police Chief Bernard C. Parks said Tuesday. A Police Commission report on the shootout is expected in several weeks.

``I think what the Times neglected to mention was the public safety of all the people involved was first and paramount to the police officers,″ said commission President Edith Perez.

The newspaper, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its spot coverage of the gunbattle, said the official version of events doesn’t match its reconstruction based on police and fire radio transmissions, internal reports, videotape footage, photographs and witness interviews.

Matasareanu and Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., 26, were wearing body armor and carrying automatic weapons when they held up a Bank of America. They then waged a gunbattle that wounded 11 officers and five other people.

Autopsies concluded Matasareanu bled to death and Phillips shot himself in the head.

Matasareanu lay moaning on his stomach bleeding for nearly 30 minutes before firefighters realized he was still alive. They took a civilian with minor gunshot wounds to the hospital first, and by the time another ambulance arrived for Matasareanu he was pronounced dead.

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Matasareanu’s two children contends officers ``cold-bloodedly murdered″ him by denying him medical attention.

Based on the Times article, attorney Stephen Yagman announced Tuesday that he had filed another lawsuit against Fire Department paramedics and Fire Chief William Bamattre, alleging they conspired with police to kill Matasareanu.

Yagman’s suit claims the paramedics ``were deliberately indifferent to the deceased’s serious medical needs″ as part of a conspiracy with police.

Bamattre defended his department.

``The members involved on our department acted appropriately and within the guidelines of the department,″ Bamattre said.

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