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Joe The Cop: Interrupting An Armed Robbery In Progress By My Friend Joe

I was living on Staten Island and commuted with my partner regularly. We had an understanding that I would not wait for him if he were late (which was more often than not). I always wanted to be early; afraid that I would miss something. We worked in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; an area that was considered high crime at the time.

On the night of November 24, 1980, I waited for him at the usual “meet spot” at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. He was late as usual. I left without him, not knowing he was only minutes away. While I was driving to work on this particular evening (at about 10:30 PM for a late tour which runs from midnight to 8:00 AM), I stopped for a light and noticed something shinny, not glaring, reflecting
because of the florescent lighting inside a bodega (Spanish grocery store) on Park and Franklin Avenues in the neighboring precinct to where I was assigned to. I stared at the shinny object in disbelief. It was a large silver plated handgun. Later, it turned out to be a .357 magnum revolver
(Dirty Harry Gun).

I left my car to investigate, thinking that it must be a toy and some children were playing. As I approached the bodega, I peeked through the window, which was stacked with grocery items and noticed several people lying on the floor, some without clothing and several men with guns. Within seconds I heard several gunshots ring out from inside. Thinking that an execution was taking place, I approached the entrance with gun in hand. I was carrying my father’s Colt Detective Special revolver (which was also my grandfather’s) at the time. I thought it would bring me good luck since both my Father (NYPD Detective) and grandfather (NYPD Captain) had been involved in shootouts with the same gun. Both survived.

I was immediately confronted by a gun toting robber who noticed me at the same instant I noticed him. As he turned toward me, I remember hoping I was a better shot than him. I then fired one round; seeing that it hit him in the side. It was a cold night and we were both wearing heavy overcoats. For a split second I thought the bullet failed to penetrate his overcoat, which just seemed to absorb the bullet.
He remained standing, trying to “sight me in” (his gun sight). I fired a second round striking him in the neck. He fell to the ground at the same time two other bandits ran from the store firing several rounds.

I picked up the first robber’s gun and pursued a second robber who was running for the getaway car. The driver was panicking and started driving away slowly with the passenger door open while the second robber ran alongside the car trying to get in. I was gaining on him as the driver took off leaving him behind. I convinced him to surrender and removed a cocked, loaded six inch revolver from him. The third robber escaped after dropping his gun and was captured a short time later by pursuing detectives.

My father’s gun was really good luck. I had only been a cop for eighteen months. This event was very much a dream. I had worked with cops who had thirty years on the job and had never fired their guns. The responding detective lieutenant knew my father and had worked with him. He told me that I did a great job. However, he said that I should have shot the second robber. At this point he told me the
person I shot was DOA (Dead On Arrival). While I was standing there, other shop keepers from the area identified the dead man as the person who had robbed their stores over the past several weeks. They formed a pattern stick up team and shot several people while committing past robberies. My partner, whom I was to have met at the bridge, showed up minutes after the shooting, very thankful
that I was not injured or killed. He would have had some “guilt trip” if this incident had gone the other way.

I received the Police Department Combat Cross for this arrest as well as the New York Daily News Hero Award. Due to the New York City budget crisis, I was laid off for three months. I was rehired in 1977. Over the next seven years I was involved in three other shootings, I had a gun put to my head and received another Combat Cross. This is very rare and almost unheard of during one career. I eventually retired after twenty-four years of law enforcement. During my career, I worked in the Fugitive Squad, Bank Robbery, Narcotics, Kidnappings and Terrorism.

I will certainly never forget the night of November 24, 1980.

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