Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

The Green Scarf Bandit – Shootout in La Cañada, and an 8-Year-Old Hero


Last week I covered the 1951 kidnap/robbery at the La Crescenta Shopping Bag by the “Green Scarf Bandit” who committed a string of robberies in which he kidnapped store managers and forced them to open the store safes. Local supermarkets were on high alert thinking they might be next. The manager of the La Cañada Shopping Bag (today’s Sprouts Farmers Market) lived on Franklin, just off La Crescenta Avenue. He briefed his family on what to do if they were hit. Knowing from the newspaper reports that the bandit was leaving the sleeping children of the store managers safely at home, he told his 8-year-old son Jimmy to pretend to be asleep if the bandit came into their house.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

The manager’s instincts were correct as just a week after the La Crescenta robbery the family was awakened in the early morning hours by an intruder masked by a green scarf. The father challenged the robber, but was smacked on the head with a lead sap for his bravery. The bandit asked who else was there, and the mother whispered, “Just my little boy, but he’s asleep.” However, 8-year-old Jimmy was not asleep. He was following Dad’s instructions to pretend to sleep, and then to call the police. He feigned sleep as the bandit played his flashlight over the boy’s bed. Jimmy heard his parents being hustled to their car and, as they drove off, he ran to the phone and called the Montrose Sheriff’s Station.

A patrol car was dispatched and screeched into the parking lot of the La Cañada market just as the store manager was fumbling with his store keys at its front door, stalling for time. The bandit bolted, running up Foothill Boulevard with the deputies in pursuit. He turned left into the dark neighborhood and the police lost him. The bandit banged on the locked door of a house on Chevy Chase, yelling that he needed help, that someone was hurt. When the family opened the door, the bandit pushed inside with his gun drawn. He demanded the keys to their car. The five members of the family were in full pandemonium and no one could locate the car keys. The bandit was panicking. He ripped the phone off the wall and announced he’d just hotwire the car, parked in back of the house. He headed for the back door but the door was jammed and he couldn’t get it open. He made one of the family come and open it, but they couldn’t get it open either.

Exhausted from his run and frustrated to the extreme, he gave up on stealing the family’s car. He ran out the front door and up to Foothill where there was a gas station (located where Flintridge Bookstore is today). Gun in hand, he charged into the station and demanded the attendant give him the keys to his car. The attendant, an off-duty cop, pulled out a gun instead, just as a patrol car with two deputies inside pulled up.

The bandit again took off running. The two deputies and the off-duty cop/gas station attendant all trained their guns on the fleeing bandit – two pistols and a shotgun – and fired away. Many shots were fired, and the bandit was hit twice, one bullet passing through his neck and a shotgun blast peppering his legs with pellets. But the bandit was pumped up with adrenaline and kept running, ducking back into the dark neighborhood.

Knowing the now-wounded bandit had a gun, the police cautiously searched the neighborhood. The Green Scarf Bandit was single-minded in his desire to escape. He circled back to the gas station he had just tried to steal a car from. He was found slumped over the wheel of the gas station attendant’s car, his .38 still clutched in his hand. Bleeding from multiple wounds he was weakly trying to hotwire the car. He was pulled out, handcuffed and loaded into an ambulance. They had finally caught the Green Scarf Bandit.

Next week, the aftermath of this local crime spree.