The Scary Manson Family Encounter Metallica's Bass Player Had As A Child

Bass veteran Robert Trujillo has been a mainstay of the Metallica line-up since 2003, when he was called in to replace former bassist Jason Newsted, bagging himself a $1 million advance in the process. His ascension to the position of full-time Metallica bassist was captured in the documentary "Some Kind of Monster," released in 2004, with his work with the band standing at the apex of a career that has also featured him providing the low end for such well-respected acts as Suicidal Tendencies, Ozzy Osbourne, and Jerry Cantrell.

And for the most part, Trujillo has let the music do most of the talking, choosing thus far not to cash in with a tell-all memoir or a documentary with the sole focus on him or his life, though he has been willing to make public appearances in the press to promote his work with arguably the world's best-loved metal band. In 2020, he gave an in-depth interview to Louder Sound (now called Metal Hammer) in which he detailed his childhood and the gang violence that he often experienced around Los Angeles. But in 2023, Metallica fans were shocked by further revelations concerning Trujillo's early years, not least that he had almost been caught up in a dangerous shoot-out that involved members of Charles Manson's notorious cult, the Manson Family.

The Manson Plot

The revelations concerning Robert Trujillo's encounter with the dark underworld inhabited by the followers of Charles Manson came in an appearance on The Offspring's popular podcast "Time to Relax with The Offspring," in which Dexter and Noodles from the legendary punk rock band grilled their fellow Californian on his life and career. While the early part of the interview focused mainly on the music — particularly the musicians who are mutual friends of the two groups or who have played together in the past — as the long-form podcast goes on, the discussion takes a darker turn to discuss how close Trujillo and his family came to the Manson Family when the bassist was just a child.

Per Blabbermouth, in August 1971 a group of Charles Manson devotees planned a robbery of the Western Surplus in Hawthorne, California, with the intention of then performing an armed hijacking of a flight from LAX. They believed that by doing so they could force the authorities to free their leader, who following his murder trial had been sentenced to death in 1971, though his sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment after the outlawing of capital punishment in California in 1972.

The incident in question became known as the "Manson Family Santa Shootout," and devolved into a gun battle leading to several injuries and the police apprehending the remaining Family members, whose plan was ultimately foiled. According to Trijullo, all this played out in the few blocks surrounding the home of his grandparents, where he just so happened to be as the crime was taking place.

Chaos outside the Trujillo family home

Though Robert Trujillo and his family weren't directly involved in the confrontation that followed the Manson Family's attempted hold-up of the gun store and the planned hijacking attempt, the gun battle between the Family and the LAPD apparently came right to the Trujillo's front door.

As Trujillo told members of The Offspring, he was 6 years old at the time of the Manson Family Santa Shootout and was staying at his grandparents' place with his dad and two young cousins. Trujillo recalled the sound of gunshots and police helicopters — or "ghetto birds" as he calls them in the podcast — circling overhead. The police reportedly used a public address system to tell local people to take cover, which prompted Trujillo's father to turn the lights off in the house and for the kids to hide in the shower.

And it seemed to be the right call for the Trujillos to be cautious, as Trujillo himself recalls that one of the armed and dangerous fugitives involved in the shootout ended up holing up in the carport of his grandparents' apartment complex, with only the laundry room separating him from the apartment the future Metallica bassist was staying in.