When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

15 March 2007

Gunfight on Bleecker Street

As Carrie and I rode back into Manhattan from Brooklyn last night, having visited and had dinner with friends, it was clear that some major shit had hit the fan: police cars were swarming everywhere, helicopters were hovering overhead, and automobile traffic was being diverted off of Houston Street, one of the main crosstown streets in Lower Manhattan.

It seemed evident that New York's Finest were focused on, and engaged in, seriously kicking someone's ass. Our driver detoured around the scene and we made it home with only minimal delay.

There was no immediate word on the goings-on in the news when we got home, but on awakening this morning, I was horrified to find this headline in the New York Times:

4 Dead in Manhattan Gunfight (New York Times, March 15, 2007)

The horror deepened as I read the story, which is an amazing narrative of senseless brutality and mindsnapping bravery.

A brief synopsis: A gunman walked into DeMarco's Pizzeria on Houston Street, put 15 rounds (!) into the bartender's back, and shortly thereafter killed two unarmed auxiliary police officers who chased him when he ran out the door. The fourth decedent was the gunman himself, who went down in a hail of bullets on Bleecker Street:
The attack began after the gunman entered a pizzeria on Macdougal and West Houston Streets and fatally shot a bartender who worked there, the authorities said. The two auxiliary officers — volunteers who dress in uniforms virtually indistinguishable from regular police officers — followed the gunman toward Sullivan Street, where he suddenly turned and shot them, the authorities said.


The authorities said that the gunman was followed by the two auxiliary officers either immediately or shortly after he left the pizzeria, and that minutes later they were shot outside 208 Sullivan Street, which once housed the former Triangle Social Club, the mob redoubt of Vincent (The Chin) Gigante. When police officers shot and killed the gunman, he was found to have been carrying two weapons and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition.
100 rounds. Ye gods.

Here's a backgrounder on the New York City Auxiliary Police, a uniformed, unarmed, all-volunteer and unpaid force.

Chasing an armed man who has just murdered someone, when you yourselves are armed with nothing but a police radio, is a species of bravery that I can't even imagine. These two brave men--unarmed volunteers--died protecting the citizens of New York City.

I'm quite sure I couldn't have, or wouldn't have, done it. Put a .45 in my hand and I might be capable of going after a gunman, even though the risk of getting shot at myself would be just as real... but if all I have is a radio and some pepper spray, I'll be calling in my location and giving as good a description of the assailant as I can muster.

And keeping my head down.

For this kind of story, of course, the NYC tabloids are unmatched:

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