DispL.A. Case #43: Manson Family Santa Shootout


The history of Los Angeles as told through 232 objects.

Los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781. Between now and the 232nd anniversary, we are gathering the stories behind iconic objects that help explain our city. Los Angeles is older than Chicago, Atlanta or Washington, D.C. In fact, when L.A.’s founders were gathering at El Pueblo, New York City was still occupied by the British army. We have a long story to tell, let’s take a look back and see where the city came from. Feel free to add to this exhibition. Email your ideas to [email protected]

Two years after the horrific Tate and LaBianca murders rocked Los Angeles, Charles Manson’s followers plotted an elaborate scheme to set him free. On August 21, 1971, five “family” members drove a white Ford van to Western Surplus in Hawthorne, forty miles from their onetime headquarters at Spahn Ranch. They planned to stage an armed assault to free Manson and “Tex” Watson from a downtown courtroom. Shortly before 10 p.m. they set off a silent alarm as they held shopkeepers prisoner and loaded 140 guns, including shotguns, semi-automatic weapons, and pistols, into boxes and trash cans.  Hawthorne PD responded to the alarm and engaged the group in a 10-minute firefight spraying the store, the van, the police cars, and this five-foot plastic Santa (look above his right eye) statue with bullets. The shootout ended with only minor injuries and the group joined Manson in police custody. 


DispL.A. Case #42: Cinerama Clapboard

DispL.A. Case #41: Fort MacArthur Searchlight

DispL.A. Case #40: Ramona Ceramic Figure

DispL.A. Case #39: Port Of Los Angeles Necklace

DispL.A. Case #38: Dragnet Badge