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McNEILL OF THE FBI : Owning Race Horses Helps Agent Forget Bloody Shoot-Out

March 14, 1987|BILL CHRISTINE | Times Staff Writer

But McNeill never saw Matix until that morning last April. After the robbers' car was disabled, McNeill jumped from his car and saw Matix smiling through his walrus mustache on the other side of the windshield.

"He looked directly at me and kind of had a half smile on his face," McNeill said. "I turned my head quickly around. That's when I felt just a breeze over my ear and then the full impact of getting hit."

Matix and Platt died hard. One was shot nine times, the other five times, yet they stumbled from their car to the car that two of the wounded FBI agents had vacated. McNeill, who had blacked out after being shot, temporarily regained consciousness in time to see one of them "execute" a fellow agent who was already lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

"They had to know by then that they were dying and not going to get out of there," McNeill said. "But these guys were real wackos. They were your classic right-wingers, without portfolio. They were like kamikazes and this was their Custer's last stand.

"They were trying to start the FBI car to escape. I know they said to themselves, 'As long as we're not going to make it, we might as well go out in a blaze of glory.' "

McNeill talks about Matix and Platt unemotionally.

According to the FBI, they probably killed a man in 1985, taking his car and leaving him at a rock pit they had used for target practice near Miami. Matix was a suspect in the murder of his first wife, who five days after Christmas in 1983 was found at the hospital where she worked, bound, gagged and stabbed 16 times, apparently without having offered resistence There was an insurance death benefit estimated at $180,000, and Matix was said to have been bitter because the insurance company hadn't paid double indemnity.

Before Matix and Platt went on their bank-robbing spree, the FBI theorized that they had murdered one another's wives. Regina Platt's death, four days before Christmas in 1984, had been listed as a suicide.

"She died from a shotgun blast directly into her mouth," McNeill said. "If she was a suicide, that would make her the first woman in the history of the FBI to kill herself with that kind of a gun that way."

Matix and Platt were not particularly good bank robbers. The take from all their robberies was only $253,000. Once, they attempted to hold up a Wells-Fargo truck, but drove off with no money after wounding a guard with a shotgun blast.

"They did no homework whatsoever," McNeill said. "If they had waited 10 minutes, that truck would have had $475,000 in it."

Toward the end, Matix and Platt were robbing the same banks with the same car bearing the same license plates. At least they picked the optimum day of the week to strike. All of their holdups were on Fridays, big payroll days for banks.

Last April 11 was a Friday, and McNeill called his men together early in the morning. "It's been a couple of weeks since these guys have done anything," he told them. "Today's the right day and I have a hunch they'll be in business again."

One task-force car spotted their car and radioed the others to surround the area. Matix and Platt realized that they were being followed and at one point made a U-turn, passing McNeill as his car approached them.

One of the crack shots among the government agents lost his glasses during the ramming of the Matix-Platt car and had to do his shooting without them.

McNeill credits Ed Mireles, a former Marine, with saving his life and a few others. Mireles, critically wounded and near blacking out, fired six shots that finally silenced Matix and Platt, who were attempting to back the car over one of the fallen agents.

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