Los Angeles: Today, the Los Angeles Police Department held a special retirement ceremony for the senior supervisor of the Department’s SWAT team, Sergeant Steve Gomez. He is the last active SWAT officer who directly confronted suspects in the historic North Hollywood Bank of America Shootout in February 1997. The event was also a tribute to fallen SWAT Officers Robert Cottle and Randy Simmons.
Feb. 28, 1997, is a date that will forever be etched in the annals of LAPD history as one of the most violent encounters Department officers ever endured. Commonly known as the North Hollywood Bank of America Shootout, the incident quickly appeared on news channels throughout the nation as the drama unfolded. Over 300 law enforcement officers from various divisions responded to what became a citywide tactical alert. By the time the shooting stopped, the two suspects, both wearing protective body armor, had fired about 1,300 rounds of ammunition at officers…nearly one round every two seconds.
A veteran of the Department with over 30 years of service, retiring SWAT supervisor, Sergeant Steve Gomez, has been awarded two prestigious Medals of Valor during his career. The first was awarded in 1985 for his actions during a hostage rescue, and the second was for his actions during the North Hollywood Bank of America Shootout. Sergeant Gomez is the last of three SWAT officers who directly engaged in a close-combat gun battle with suspect Emil Matasareanu.
Images of the violent encounter were forever captured as a news helicopter covered the drama live from above. Sergeant Gomez and his two SWAT partners engaged the suspect from less than 20 feet away with their only protection being a police car between them and the suspect’s AK-47 automatic rifle. Their heroism embodied all that a police officer strives to be.
As part of today’s observance, Sergeant Gomez formally passed his badge to his successor. He also placed a wreath on the memorial for fallen SWAT Officers Robert Cottle and Randy Simmons as a tribute to the bravery and dedication of all SWAT officers, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the Department, the City of Los Angeles and their country.
Joining Gomez today at his farewell ceremony were Chief Charlie Beck and numerous Department personnel, along with family members who included Gomez’ wife of 32 years, Jeri, his son Matthew with his wife Adriana, and his daughter Jamie. Gomez also has a son, Steve, who was unable to attend because he is currently serving in the United States Navy.