As the Executive Assistant to the Sheriff, I had my pick of all the top Lieutenants on our department for the Executive Aide position.  I selected John Kolman, former LASD Special Enforcement Bureau (SWAT) Commander.  John introduced me to most of the top SWAT people in LASD and LAPD.  In 1983, John and I led a dozen-person group of SWAT supervisors, from across the country, on a tour of four of the top Counter Terrorism Agencies abroad, in preparation for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  We visited with the British SAS; the German BKA; the French GIGN; and the Israeli Counter Terrorist Bureau.  It was odd visiting the Wailing Wall, escorted by several Officers with Uzi’s.

In August, 1995, I was hired by the Notre Dame Athletic Department to consult on the Stadium Usher Program and the crowd management needs of the Stadium heading into the Stadium expansion (to 80,000) seats, for the 1997 season.  In March of 1996, I was hired to take charge of the 67 year old Stadium Usher program, founded by Knute Rockne at the time of the building of Notre Dame Stadium (1930).

On February 28, 1997, Rick Massa, and his partner James Zboravan, were the two LAPD SWAT Officers who ended up shooting the second of the two bank robbers, outside the North Hollywood Bank of America, in the largest bank robbery shootout in American history (2,000 shots fired).  They received many awards for their work, including the LAPD Medal of Valor and a similar award from President Clinton.  Ironically, Rick grew up in North Hollywood and attended North Hollywood High School, as did my two daughters.

Not long after this shootout, Rick contacted me about joining the Notre Dame Usher Stadium Usher program.  More than 500 of the 850 Ushers are volunteers and Rick wanted to be one of these unpaid “Ambassadors for Notre Dame”.  After Rick contacted me and we quickly learned of our many friends in common, he was an easy hire.  I immediately put him on my North End Zone team, where I stationed myself, and where I put only elite talent.  Rick was still an active SWAT Officer, so he was not able to attend all of our games.  Because of the fame he received from this shooting, he was in demand as a SWAT instructor all across the country.  He routed most of his business travel through Chicago on a lot of Fall Weekends and detoured to South Bend to work many home games.  Rick also did a lot of training with our local SWAT officers when he came to town.  Rick jogged all over the Notre Dame Campus.  I ran into him at the Grotto at midnight on more than one occasion.  He is a wonderful Notre Dame subway alumnus, overcoming the influence of a certain South Central Los Angeles private college which dominates the city where he worked. 

I have been in Rick’s take-home SWAT vehicle, which has an ND insignia on it.  I have seen Rick’s SWAT uniform, which has an ND insignia on the back of his helmet.  I have seen the tattoo on Rick’s leg of the Irish Leprechaun.  I have stayed in Rick’s home, where one of his rooms resembles my Notre Dame Room (so you KNOW he has some great memorabilia). 

As Rick was approaching retirement, he chose a second career common to many talented Italians (who can’t sing)….and became a chef.  And, a good one.  Here’s some commentary about Rick’s new career:

January 14, 2009

Food Network's 'Ultimate Recipe Showdown' Winner – Retired LAPD Officer Rick Massa

Retired SWAT Officer Rick Massa adds new weaponry to his arsenal – a whisk and a cheese grater!  From cop to cook, Massa showed the judges not only could he handle an assault rifle in the field, he was a master of the chef’s knife in the kitchen.   Massa’s Cheese Lover’s 5 Cheese Mac & Cheese received top honors in the Comfort Food category of the Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" and will be featured at over 600 T.G.I. Friday restaurants across the nation.
A 35 year veteran of the LAPD, Massa served in the Department’s elite SWAT unit his last 25 years, taking part in several high profile events, including the North Hollywood shootout.  A self-proclaimed “backyard burger-flipper,” Massa took his love for food to the next level after befriending Matt Bencivenga, chef and partner of Wolfgang Puck Catering & Events.  Given the opportunity to join the Puck catering team in the kitchen, Massa didn’t want to disappoint and took several cooking courses prior to taking him up on his offer.  Once in, he became hooked and later opened his own catering and personal chef service, 1st Cut Cuisine.

In an interview with the Food Network, Massa spoke of his brothers and sisters in blue, “My fellow SWAT officers, they are family, and to be able to come back and still be a part of these guys and be a part of the team . . .  Even though I can’t do it as a SWAT team leader but, now, I’m their cook. That’s very cool.”*******

Rick won this contest over 15,000 other entrants.  His performance on the show featuring the four finalists also highlighted his outstanding skill in front of the camera.

For the past several years, Rick has treated me and a select group of friends each year with a dinner of my choosing.  I have rotated the location of these events.  It was in my house the first year.  Rick asked me what kind of stove I had and was amused that I told him I did not know……but, that’s another story. 

For 16 years, I was honored to work more than 100 football games with more than 800 outstanding ambassadors for Notre Dame.  Rick was one of the best, from a great talent pool.  We even had a unanimous winner of Miss Congeniality from the Miss America Pageant, but we’ll leave her for another day. 

I’m enjoying my retirement, but I miss my old gang.  

Go Irish!


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