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Hey, California city listeners, this is Anthony yesterday, he's the host of Norco 80. Thank you for listening to episodes one and two. I wanted to share one more episode with you, a look into the lives of the robbers. They were a group of survivalists building a bunker to outlive the end of the world. In the episode, we hear from their ex-wives and learn about the growing doomsday paranoia of the 70s. To continue listening to this story, head over to the Norco 80 feed with new episodes available every Monday.


A quick warning. Some of the series includes descriptions of violence. Last week on Norco 80, you got killed off the building. Billy, what was his last name? Doga and Billy Delgado. He was the driver of the van and my best friend.


Just on May 9th, 1980, Sharon Dickins remembers being terrified when masked robbers burst into the bank where she worked as a teller.


The only thing that I can remember thinking was just do, as you said, students, he says, give him what he wants because that that's what they taught us in training. Don't try and be a hero. After the robbers left the bank and the fear faded. Sharon learned from the police that the robbers weren't random armed strangers. One of them, George Smith, was actually her neighbor. We had an acre and a quarter property. Their backyard was up against our backyard where they had dug their tunnel, if you will, where they were going to retreat to.


I mean, they were living right there. Did you know that there was a crazy bunker being built next door to you? No, heavens no. The FBI actually interviewed my then father and mother in law because originally they thought it could have been an inside job because the suspect's backyard backed up against our backyard. But I set him straight real quick that day. The police were so astonished at the level of firepower that the suspects displayed that they came up with a lot of wild theories about who they were.


One of the officers on the scene thought the robbery might be related to the leftist militant group that had kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst.


Is this some type of a terrorist outfit? Not only are they armed to the teeth with rifles, but I mean, they're dressed in military fatigues.


The FBI thought they might be a notorious group of bank robbers from Canada known for using a timer.


These guys, we believe, are the stopwatch gang and that they do take over bank robberies or maybe they were a radical revolutionary outfit known for their bombings of government buildings and banks.


I was a little concerned at the time. You know, there was just this wild group called the Weathermen that were out there, the Weather Underground. I was wondering, is this them?


But none of these theories turned out to be true.


I'm Anthony City either, and this is Norco Hédi, a series about God, Guns, Survivalism and the bank robbery that changed policing forever. Chapter three. The robbers were all really good friends and really bad luck I. Five young men played a part in the bank robbery in Norco, California, that day, none of them had ever robbed a bank before or even committed a major crime. The assumed ringleader of the group was the charismatic George Smith, who planned the operation himself.


Yes, I did. And I was right. When questioned by the police, George would take full responsibility for the plan to rob the Bank Corp. all the way.


He told them what to do in the bank. I told them what to do in the bank heist drama and all that, he said.


I told them what to do in the bank. I cased the bank, made the bombs. I did all that. But long before George dreamed up a plan to rob a bank, he was a shy kid, first time I ever saw George, I believe he was in the third grade, I don't remember. But I thought, what a handsome young man.


Even in the third grade, I thought he was really nice looking. Yes, I did. And what did he look like?


Oh, he had dark hair and dark eyes and beautiful color brown skin like a tan. And he was real quiet and cute. Rosalina, Miranda Johnson met George Smith growing up in Orange County, California. I'm 67 and my profession is a grandma. I love that to my grandkids. Push me around and got me by the their fingers in my nose. They always tell me where we're going to go. Come on, Grandma. We're going shopping.


Back in the 60s, Rosalina didn't muster up the courage to talk to George until high school.


He worked for the school paper. At lunchtime, I went by and I said, hi, George. And he said hi back. And I said, You still got your car going. He goes, No, it's kind of broken right now. And then I said something like, well, when you get your car fixed, why don't you give me a call?


Oh, and he said, Really? And I said, Yeah.


Came over one night and knocked on the door and I was making tortillas. And he says, You probably forgot. He goes, but you said you'd go out with me on the movies. That's when they started dating. Sometimes we'd be talking with a bunch of other people and then he'd be looking at me and he'd give me his eyes like, you know, he really liked me. And then when we were along, he'd say, you know how much I wanted to hold you so romantic.


You remember that show that girl with Marlo Thomas? Well, it was about a girl that was in New York and she had a boyfriend named Donald. And I always would go up to George and put my head on his shoulder and I say O'Donnel. The neighborhood where George and Rosalina grew up was in a historically segregated suburban county south of Los Angeles, and Rosalina remembers how in the late 50s her school wasn't very open to families like hers.


Since I am a Mexican, you know, my grandparents and my grandmother were you know, we you raised your kid with the language that you have at home. And then when I started school, I found that I had to speak English and it was really difficult for me and I'd get a lot of trouble.


One time she said to some girls at school who she thought wanted to play, but they told on her and the teachers shook her as punishment for not speaking in English.


When I got mine, they'd run until the teacher was she was coming and I get another shook my head would be like a bopping back and forth. And so I kind of kept kind of quiet after after that.


Georgas family had moved to Orange County in nineteen fifty six when he was four years old from Casper, Wyoming. His father was white and his mother was Japanese American and they were looking for a place where they might fit in better. Growing up, half white and half Japanese in the decades after World War Two, George was used to being called an ethnic slur for Japanese people. But in Orange County, he seemed to be doing pretty well in high school.


He wasn't just the editor of the school paper. He also played on the tennis team. At 18, after he graduated, Rosalinda and George got married. They went to a justice of the peace and had a reception at his parents house.


All they decorated the place and they had lots of food as some mixed drinks, even though we were not old enough to drink and we didn't. And it was really nice. I liked it. I really enjoyed that that part of our marriage. But at that point, Rosalina already had concerns when we were young, he said when we were dating, he told me that he had to do something and that was to kill somebody. He told you that he had to kill somebody?


Yes, he wanted to know what it felt like, she says he seemed fascinated with death. He says this best thing to do is take a whole bunch of pills. He was telling you to take a bunch of pills. Yeah. Oh, my God. That's awful. Mm hmm. He'd always say that, like Romeo and Juliet. He says, let's be like Romeo and Juliet.


I'm thinking like hell I am in no way you know where I'm going to take no Romeo and Juliet, not this Mexican. Once Rosalina had tried to break up with him, she says he threatened her, saying, if I can't have you, no one can have you. In 1970, about a month after they were married, George joined the Army in his enlistment picture. He's got a broad and crooked smile, his dark hair wavy, the pins on his uniform, shiny.


At the time, the Vietnam War was losing public support. That year, four student protesters were shot and killed by the National Guard at an anti-war protest at Kent State on the students, it sparked demonstrations at hundreds of colleges and even more backlash against the draft.


We are here to demand in their name an end to the war in Vietnam, 1972 in 71, but in 1970.


But George volunteered for the Army. He would be sent to Germany. Right before he shipped out, things took a turn for the worse between him and Rosalina, she remembers jokingly telling George, Oh, George, I'm going to have a baby and I always play that game.


I like to play games. I don't know.


He called her to the living room from the bedroom. And then when as soon as I went through the threshold from the door that goes into the living room, George was standing on the side. And when I walked by there, he got a kick. I just heard a. She says he kicked her in the stomach and then he said.


That's in case you're pregnant. I don't want no kids, and I knew this guy was serious, so I thought, woof, ay caramba, I need to exit to the left.


George would later deny this. So was it a kind of a situation where once he was gone, you were like, this is my chance to get out?


Oh, yes, I hate to say that.


And I didn't want to, but it was not really a very safe place for me to be before he came back from Germany abroad. My dear John letter. I wanted to wait till he came back, but that wouldn't be fair to him, and then that's when I I met Mr. Johnson. Rosalinda met another man while George was away when he came back from the service after two years they got divorced. George started looking for a job and ended up working in parks maintenance for the nearby town of Cypress.


It's during this time that he would meet the woman who would become his second wife, Hannah Palmer.


What what did you look like at the time?


I was blond, Blue-Eyed.


Cute, and that was not really, you know, my problem attract men. But they didn't I wasn't that good was choosing me because I had issues from home.


Hannah had immigrated from Germany a few years before she came to Los Angeles on vacation and love the sun and ocean so much she decided to stay. One night in nineteen seventy four, she went out after her shift at a jewelry distribution center. I went with a friend from work. We went to a dancing place, I guess it was a disco or something. And that's where I met him. He was charming and he was bright and kind of like the way he looked.


He looked a little bit foreign, curly black hair. But I really wasn't looking for a boyfriend. But he was pretty persistent. Gosh, we really probably didn't have that much in common, but somehow we got together one day George told Hannah he wanted to go house shopping.


He needed more space for his dogs, big Husky's he had at the time. And so he and Hannah went together to talk to a real estate agent.


But the guy said, well, why don't you guys get married? And then, you know, you can afford that place. And I still I still remember. I just kind of sort of freaked. I really did.


I feel real funny. And that's when it kind of came up the first time. But getting married shortly after they did get married. After a while, Hannah noticed some things were off with George's family.


There were friendly enough. But they you know, we lived so close and they never ask, you know, how we were doing or anything. And then, you know, he said to his mom said that, you know, I was really out of his league. And so I thought maybe that wasn't such a nice thing to say to you.


George also told her about some physical abuse in his childhood. Hannah says that he told her his father beat him and his mother burned his sister with cigarettes. In nineteen seventy six, Hannah and George had a child, a girl they named Monica, at this point, Hannah was seeing a side of George that scared her. Well, first it started out just, you know, hit the wall and made a big hole in the wall. And then he pushed me.


And then, you know, once Monica was there, I think he felt a lot of the tension that he thought he wanted or whatever went to her one time. She I think he would have hit me. But, you know, I took my daughter and ran out the back door in my underwear. And luckily, we had nosy neighbors. So they came out. And so then he stopped. See, I wasn't so good for myself, but I know I didn't want my daughter to grow up this way, so that's when I started thinking of how to leave safe.


Rosalinda and Hana both remember George as charming and possessive, but there was something that changed between the relationships, a shift after he returned from his military service. This is Rosalinda again. Was he really religious when you were together?


No, he didn't believe in God. He said there is no God. Try to tell him, you know, George, there is a God and you know that the Lord, you know, died for him and me on the cross and that. But he just said, I don't believe it.


And so I just figured maybe later on in life, he might find the Lord and then he did. Yes, he did the George, it was a changed man.


He had this whole thing, he, you know, I don't know, he was one of God's elected to be a prophet or something. It just really went out there. And I think part of it was to want to be important to somebody, to something.


We'll be right back. This Elías Studios podcast is supported by Keibel, biotech makers of scientifically formulated and clinically tested probiotic dietary supplements. The gut microbiome comprises up to 70 percent of the human immune system and relies on a balance of diverse, beneficial bacteria to perform optimally. Bio MUNITY, a vegan dietary supplement containing prebiotics probiotics, vitamins and nutrients, is designed to nourish the body's natural immune defense system. Keibel Biotech Passionate about your health. More information is available at BiOM Unity Dotcom.


We're back in southern California in the 1970s, was the epicenter of Christian youth culture, he's given us the message.


We're going forth and proclaiming the good news. Jesus is coming back, repent and turn to the Lord and save yourselves from this evil generation where George was living in Orange County.


The Jesus movement was sweeping up thousands of youths into a new kind of ecstatic experience.


And God is blowing everybody's mind because he's saving. He's saving that the hippies and nobody thought he could be saved, received the anointing and received the power.


At the nearby Calvary Church in Costa Mesa, long haired preachers spread a message of peace and love the wind.


But you can see the leaves of their Rocco from the wind. You cannot see the fear of God move, but you can see the dark as you've got these people.


George had grown up with the Bible at home, discussed Christianity with his father, but after he returned from his time in the Army, George began to really study it. Friends said he talked about it obsessively. A friend who grew up with George recalls being baptized together by a pastor of the Calvary Church at Huntington Beach. At the time, ocean baptisms were popular. Thousands of young people, half naked, many long haired, would meet on the sand and wade into the water at sunset to be baptized by lines of ministers.


George would visit the Calvary Chapel, but he didn't stick with just one church. He attended services all over, taking in different teachings.


But he became fixated on was one particular idea, a biblical interpretation that was growing in popularity outside of the evangelical movement. To that the end of the world was coming and coming soon.


So some people imagined that what would happen is there would be a trumpet sound, we would disappear and our clothes would just fall to the ground and people would come and say, oh, it must be the rapture.


David Templeton was a teenager in the 1970s. He was going to the Calvary Church at the same time as George.


There was a popular song by Larry Norman called I Wish We'd All Been Ready. Why, Larry Norman was one of the founders of Christian Rock, a genre that was just beginning his wish we'd all be reading and the lyrics included things like life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor.


I wish we'd all been ready.


Everyone got trampled on the floor. We know there's a line in there about a trumpet blast and people rising up and then all this horrible stuff that's going to happen afterwards.


For centuries, some Christians have believed that Jesus Christ will return one day and the world will end that when the rapture comes true, believers across the world will disappear into the heavens, leaving behind the rest of humanity toward disaster, famine and general suffering.


We were always kind of halfway in between this sort of ecstasy of the intensity of it and the just incredible fear because, you know, we were waiting for the rapture and the end times to begin in the 60s and 70s.


Anxiety around the Cold War led to renewed popularity in Christian groups that preached the end times.


Nuclear exchanges hanging over us definitely was something that we'd all grown up with doing those drills and school where we'd hear the siren and hide under a desk. We all have that fear of the end of the world, which dovetailed really nicely into this fear of the end times.


We we had been trained to believe that the world was about to end, but we are now told it's not going to happen because of Russia. It's going to happen because of the Antichrist. George has said that while in the Army, he was assigned to work with nuclear bombs and weaponry and that because of that experience, he came to believe in a very real way that the end of the world could happen at any moment. His belief was reinforced by the popular culture of the time in the late 70s, Domesday Christian beliefs entered the mainstream with books like The Late Great Planet Earth and is faced by unprecedented perils that threatened to send him crashing into the dark abyss of silence known as extinction.


It predicted that the return of Jesus and thus the end of the world would happen in the 1980s, The New York Times called it the number one non-fiction bestseller of the decade.


Then, as now, a man believed himself too sophisticated for prophecies. But now prophetic patterns exist that cannot be ignored, cannot be forgotten.


It wasn't the only popular apocalyptic book of the time.


In 1974, the Jupiter Effect set a date for the end times to sunspots and solar flares, gigantic eruptions on the sun surface that shower the group written by two scientists.


It predicted an alignment of the planets would cause a series of natural catastrophes by the year 1982.


How many? How severe? It's anybody's guess. All we know for certain is that no civilization on earth has ever been so vulnerable. Hannah Palmer and George Smith didn't talk about religion when they first started seeing each other, but later on he told her about his growing concerns.


She. Kind of got into revelation. And the Bible in the seven year war, and he felt we needed to get ready for that, George was most interested in the parts of the Bible that predicted this time of tribulation, and he wanted Hunnam and baby Monica to start preparing right away.


Yeah, he got a little carried away with that and he felt he had a very special role in this and he needed to keep his family safe. And I think that was one of the reasons he later wanted money to get a place out in the country to keep his friends and his family safe.


In other words, George became obsessed with preparing for the end of the world. He would later talk about moving to a remote location where they would hunker down and be safe. These ideas made Hannah uncomfortable, and after George tried to hit her, she wanted to leave.


I wasn't quite sure how to do it. I didn't have family. I mean, in in America where I lived, I had friends, but I felt embarrassed to tell anybody, you know, that was not the time people knew about abuse.


And then she saw a way out. At the time, she and George were living together in a house they owned. But George came to her one day with a plan for them to buy another house with his Parks Department co-worker, Chris Harvin.


I don't know. This whole thing with Chris came in there and then they wanted to grow pop.


They wanted to start a marijuana farm in the backyard. He and Hannah would just need to sell their house first.


So I said, OK, let's sell the house. But I said, I'm not going to go with you. You know, when you go out, I don't want to have the police come to my door when they were growing the marijuana.


Was that purely for their own recreational use?


Like, do you remember not to sell it to make money? That was the big money. Somehow I think he stopped, you know, once they have made enough money, I would come back. But they never would. And so George put together a new plan, a plan to rob a bank. We'll be right back. We are excited, Elías Studios, California Love is a best podcast of 20-20 by Apple podcast and Spotify.


What you find the hidden secret is like, Oh, this is here. Oh, you have an oasis, join Walter Thompson Hernandez for a transcendent journey, experience California, love wherever you get your podcasts. One, two, three, four, testing, one, two, three, four. Testing, one, two, three, four days. When the police captured and questioned the robbers, they first interrogated George Smith, but their other main focus was his housemate, Chris Harben.


And Chris would be the one to try to explain the why why they wanted to rob a bank.


It started a couple of hours before my friend Chris told them.


It all started when his friend George had split from his wife, Hannah. George and Chris would buy a house together. Then they both lost their jobs.


If I had, I had a job for seven years to go to work, you know that. You know, like for government. And so that's why I had an appointment.


Chris told the police, that's why I'm on unemployment insurance.


Last year, his wife's job, his family pretty much knew his money. He the supposed job.


Chris said that's when George proposed a job. Chris Harvin first met George Smith in the early 1970s while they were digging ditches in the sun and laying mulch for the city of Cypress Parks Department. He was six feet tall and a physically fit man with dirty blond hair and a silky mustache. While they worked, they talked about Cold War politics or the Bible. They bonded over their shared fear that one way or another, the world was falling apart and they obsessed over any evidence or signs that the apocalypse was coming.


They both agreed the end of the world was imminent. So Chris and George had put down a five thousand dollar deposit on a house in a neighborhood north of Norco, George used his veteran status to get a discounted mortgage and they got a rundown stucco, three bedroom house for me.


OK, great. Where am I calling you? Where in the country are you?


I'm in California is the Central Valley. Oh, OK. Cool.


Lonnie Harvin, Chris's wife at the time, lived with both of them for six months. Chris had met Lonnie when she was just 16 years old at Disneyland.


I would go there with a couple of friends and at that time it only cost like three fifty to get in. But now we didn't drive. But we was there was a dance for and we would go dancing there, which is, you know, healthy for our team to do there. He and his friend approached me and my cousin and we danced and we met that way.


Chris was two years older than Lonnie. He told her he was starting community college and hoping to become a lawyer. They married when Lonnie was 18. Chris would never end up graduating in. A couple of years later, they had a son.


So what was Chris like as a as a husband and as a father? As a husband?


It was fine, Mark, for the first maybe year. And so but then he became the CFO. You know, back then I know marijuana was not legal and all, but he was smoking it. I didn't know. And I found it and I approached him. And it just seems like I couldn't trust him and he was unfaithful.


She says he cheated on her repeatedly and she wasn't pleased.


When Chris and George began building a weed farm in the backyard was all dirt. And that's where they built their I don't know when it was it was they built something that grows there in the backyard.


The men built a greenhouse. They topped it with barbed wire and fiberglass. And while they built their weed operation, they also began making other preparations for the end of the world. So basically, they were digging a tunnel for the purpose of protecting. Well, they would save even myself to go down there if a bomb hits or whatever. Do they say where the bomb was coming from? No, just the end of the world. You know, just whatever would happen, I don't really recall.


Would you just kind of tune it out? Yeah, there you go.


They dug a ten foot deep pit with tunnels under the house, but this was just a starter shelter. The plan was that once they'd saved enough, they'd buy a house in Utah or another remote place and build a true bunker. At the time, Lonnie didn't take them too seriously. Hannah, George's ex-wife, would sometimes come over and she and Lonnie would ignore the men as they talked about religion or played long, intense games of risk.


She would come and we would watch TV and stuff, and again, they would be in the bathroom talking or whatever, doing their smoking, whatever what they were doing.


Chris and George had friends coming in and out of the house. George sometimes practiced with his small band. Hannah remembers he was the front man. Wow.


He really he was the singer. And then he had a harmonica and he had somebody with the guitar and they basically mostly played in the garage.


They called themselves mixed company. They would do small gigs, bars or fairs.


Yeah, it was kind of, you know, rock and roll type of thing. Yeah, it was, you know, like I don't think he was that great, but it was good. The guitarist in the band had two brothers that George would become friendly with. The older was twenty one year old Manuel Delgado, known as Manny.


His wife came and I liked her. She was nice.


The younger was seventeen year old Bellisario Delgado, known as Billy.


Billy was very sweet. I don't know. All I remember is I had to go grocery shopping or something, so he either went with me or he helped me to put them inside. He was, you know, a sweet young man.


By March of nineteen eighty, things were coming to a head for Chris and George. At this point, neither of them were working full time. And not only had they not saved enough for a bunker in Utah, they were now struggling to pay the mortgage. Lonnie had decided to leave Chris and move out of the house.


Did you know about them starting to buy and store guns or bombs? No, I think when they started getting that is after I left, but I know they probably got money from their growing, you know what I mean? I just felt like you guys minds in the clouds or something.


If they lost the house, it would mean losing the tunnels they had built in the backyard and the over three hundred marijuana plants they'd been carefully growing. This is when the idea of a robbery became the solution to all their problems. But they would need some help to pull it off.


Chris and George began to recruit. Manny Delgado would help grab the cash, he had long sideburns and his initials tattooed on his arm. He was about to have a second child and figured he could use the money. Billy Delgado would become the getaway driver. Billy was Manny's teenage brother and he was a somewhat unlikely recruit. He was very young and struggled with arthritis. And Russell Harvin, known as Ross, would become the lookout. Ross was Chris's younger brother, and he was the last member they would bring in on the plan.


He had the same light hair as Chris, but he also had a long, bushy beard. He was 26 and he was behind on his child support. Finally, Chris would help gather the money and it was decided George would become the timekeeper. In the weeks leading up to the robbery, George case, the bank memorizing the layout so he knew where they were positioned themselves to grab the cash in under two minutes. Chris and George had already been building a gun collection, but with the remaining money, they bought more.


They had AR 15s, shotguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a German semi-automatic rifle known as a heckler. George would tell police about how they went practice shooting someone.


So you come up here shooting about once a month before you shoot a heckler. So who was that 45 caliber that you're using?


A copy of the Anarchist Cookbook and Georgia's military knowledge. They began to train.


They went to a nearby mountain to target practice and set off homemade bombs and grenades in the lead up to the robbery. George stopped cutting his hair so he could look more like the biblical hero Samson, whose hair was the source of his incredible strength. But despite their training and preparation, the robbers could have never imagined that this heist of George's local bank would turn into an extended manhunt across several counties.


All right. What is the first thing you guys are fascinated with?


The criminality that George told the police. Criminality isn't my profession. The winding journey to their final standoff with the police would involve at least 30 cop cars, damaged eight officers and several bystanders wounded, and one helicopter shot down from the sky and shot up by a helicopter, the expensive one to pay for the freeway.


Yeah, that was part of the wild fight, but I don't know who got it. All right. By my dispatch.


Can you confirm if a helicopter has been been shot out of the sky and go, what?


Are you kidding me? That's next time on Norco, Eddie. Norco, 80, is written and produced by me and Don yesterday here and by Sofia by Lisa Carr, the show is a production of L.A. studios in collaboration with Futura Studios. Loggi is the executive producer for L.A. Studios. Marlon Bishop is the executive producer for Futura Studios. Audrey Quinn is our editor. Joaquin Cutler is our associate producer. Juana Ramirez is our production assistant. Maria Lexia Cavenagh is our intern, fact checking by Amy Tardif.


Our engineers are Stephanie Libo and Alicia TUPE, Original Music by Zach Robinson. This podcast is based on the book Norco, edited by Peter Hoolahan. Our website is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Elías Studios. The marketing team of L.A. studios created our branding thanks to the team at L.A. studios, including Kristen Hayford, Taylor Kaufman, Kristen Muller and Leo. If you want to hear more Nakao Eddie, please follow or subscribe to the podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, NPR one, the I Heart app, or wherever you get your podcasts.


And don't forget to write and review the show. This episode is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Miranda. We were grateful to be able to speak to him for this story. We thank him and his family for their time. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.