EXCLUSIVE: The story of how five young men, driven by end-of-the-world fears surrounding the Cold War and inspired by an apocalyptic religious movement, attempted to rob a Southern California bank is the basis for a new podcast series from LAist Studios.
The podcast division of Southern California Public Radio, is launching ten-part podcast series Norco ‘80: God, Guns, Survivalism and the Bank Robbery that Changed Policing Forever about the events of May 9, 1980.
The series, which launches on January 11, 2021, will look at how how the events ushered in a new conversation around end of the world paranoia, survivalism, faith, mental health, public safety, and the evolving role of law enforcement that remains ever-relevant.
Hosted by Antonia Cereijido, the show features new interviews with central figures in the robbery and never-before-heard archival tape from police radio traffic and confession room recordings. These interviews include the ringleader of the group as well as law enforcement and others involved that day.
At the time, the bank heist was quickly becoming the most California of crimes. But while most robbers favored a discreet handoff, the Norco bank robbery saw five heavily-armed and ill-prepared men acting under the influence of religious fanaticism carry out a heist that quickly spiralled out of control, leading to one of the most unbelievable and violent events in law enforcement history.
It is produced by LAist Studios, in partnership with Futuro Studios. Antonia Cereijido is also senior producer with Sophia Paliza-Carre. Marlon Bishop is executive producer and Joaquin Cotler is associate producer. Leo G is executive producer for LAist Studios.
Herb Scannell CEO and President of Southern California Public Radio, told Deadline that it was a quintessential LA story that also had a contemporary influence. “It brought us back to the time when Southern California was the bank robbery capital of the world,” he said. It was also very contemporary, with the militarization of police… particularly in the aftermath of George Floyd and the demonstrations and the jaw dropping idea that you’d see small towns with weaponry and rubber bullets.”
LAist Studios launched in July 2019 and has produced podcasts including California Love, an anthology series hosted by Walter Thompson-Hernández, who tells deeply personal stories of his life growing up as a bi-racial kid in Los Angeles, California City, an investigative series uncovering a land banking scheme that’s been running for decades in the largely desolate California City, Servant of Pod, hosted by podcast journalist Nick Quah and Hollywood, The Sequel, hosted by KPCC’s John Horn, looking at the entertainment industry and its restart in the wake of COVID-19.
Scannell said the idea behind the podcast drive to tell LA stories that resonate around the world. “Beyond the fact that we want to tell LA stories, we want to capture the diverse voices of LA,” he said.
The former BBC America and Nickelodeon executive said that they’re now having conversations about adapting some of its shows for television and film. “There’s a lot of interest in a couple of our podcasts particularly California Love and California City. That’s something that’s in consideration right now,” he said. “I was there in the early days of cable, when we worked with people that weren’t the usual suspects and they brought things to television that were very different. To me, podcasting is a creative space, it’s a greenfield for creative people.”