June 2015 – Target Blue 1971
John Young, Patrolman
The title above is borrowed from Robert Daley, former Deputy Police Commissioner of Public Information under Patrick V. Murphy. It was an insider’s view of the New York City Police Department, and gives the reader an unprecedented view of what actually happened within the department during the 1970s…or so the dust-jacket says!
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (Frank Hogan) indicted 21 Black Panthers in connection with the conspiracy to kill police officers, the attempted bombings of police stations (44th & 24th Precincts), several department stores, and the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. The trial was held in Manhattan Supreme Court before Judge John Murtagh. It was the longest and most expensive trial in the history of New York State.
Note: While 21 individuals were indicted in April 1969, some were never arrested and several jumped bail. Richard Moore and Edward Josephs jumped bail and were later arrested by 48th Precinct cops (Patrolmen Patrick Harnett & Thomas McCarren) after a social club robbery at 3802 Park Avenue, on June 4, 1971. Both cops were promoted to detective by Commissioner Murphy.
The judge’s “Inwood” home had been fire-bombed in February, 1970, and NYPD immediately assigned a radio car team to the judge’s home and District Attorney Hogan’s residence on Riverside Drive. The trial ended on May 13, 1971. After a short deliberation the Manhattan jury returned a “not guilty” verdict for all defendants, on all charges..
Wednesday/May 19, 1971 (26th Precinct) 9:15 PM: Patrolmen Thomas Curry and Nicholas Binetti had just relieved the team for meal at 404 Riverside Drive. Suddenly a car roared down the one-way street (W. 113th Street) from the opposite direction. Curry & Binetti gave chase and pulled alongside the vehicle at 106th Street. As they did, the driver scrunched down in his seat and his passenger stuck a machine gun out the driver’s window. The RMP’s windshield shattered. Glass flew in every direction. Bullets smashed into Curry’s face, neck and chest. Binetti was shot in the neck, stomach and chest. The RMP crashed and stopped, while the assailant’s car sped off into the night. Both cops were rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital, where they were treated for their wounds. Curry and Binetti had been crippled for life. Curry was disfigured and would never walk or talk again. Binetti’s arm was paralyzed.
Both officers remained on the department payroll until their 63rd birthdays, because they were placed on the “Mayor’s Exempt List” thus all medical bills were covered. They were retired in 1998, with line-of-duty disabilities. Curry passed away in 2007, while Binetti still lives in the Bronx.
Friday/May 21, 1971 (32nd Precinct) 10:00 PM: Patrolmen Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini were returning to their RMP after responding to a job at the Colonial Park Houses (old Polo Grounds) at 159th Street & Harlem River Drive. They had responded to an unfounded job, “Woman cut with a knife.’’ Before reaching their RMP, two black youths opened fired upon both officers. Jones went down, three shots in the spine and one in the back of the head. He died at the scene.
Piagentini was hit 13 times, including shots fired from his service revolver. He had repeatedly tried to fend off the bullets with his arms and pleaded for his life. Placed into another RMP, Piagentini died in the backseat while enroute to Harlem Hospital. Note: Piagentini’s wife stated that Joe had 22 wounds (probably entry & exit).
The three assailants (Herman Bell, Anthony Bottoms & Albert Washington) fled with the officers’ weapons. Officer Jones’ service revolver would be recovered after BLA members fired on San Francisco police. Letters from the Black Liberation Army to the New York Times claimed responsibly for the double assassination and machine-gunning of Cury & Binetti. Latent fingerprints (Moore & Josephs) were found on the wrapping paper of package delivered to the Times.
The Bronx Social Club robbery (6/4/71) saw the arrest of Moore, Jamal Josephs, Curtis Mullins & Augusta Qualls, and the recovery of the machine gun used in the Curry-Binetti shootings. Qualls would testify against Moore, and he was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 25-years to life (1973). His conviction was overturned in 1990, and the City paid Moore $490,000 to settle his unlawful arrest claim. He currently lives in Accra, Ghana.
An attempted machine-gunning of San Francisco Police Sergeant Kowalski in August, led to the arrest of Anthony Bottoms and Albert Washington. In their automobile was the revolver of Waverly Jones. Ballistic tests revealed that Bottoms’ 45 automatic was used to kill Jones. Herman Bell was arrested during another Harlem social club robbery and subsequently indicted with Bottoms and Washington, for the double assassination of Patrolmen Jones and Piagentini. The first trial ended in a “hung jury,” but they were convicted in the second trial and sentenced to 25-years to life.
Note: Herman Bell pleaded guilty (2009) to a reduced charge in San Francisco, of Voluntary Manslaughter of Sergeant John Young (no relation) and was credited with time served. Albert Washington died in prison (2000).
Both Bell and Bottoms have been denied parole several times (2002, 2004, etc.) as they come up for parole every other year. Bell has earned a Masters Degree in Sociology, and learned to play the flute. He should have learned to play the harp, along with Twyman Meyers, who was “ambushed” by FBI and NYPD in the 42nd Precinct on November 14, 1973. The word “ambushed” came from a Black Liberation Army website.
One thing to remember, 1971 had 10 police officers shot and killed in New York City. It was the highest count since 1930, when a similar number of police officers were killed. Another trivia note: The Spring 3100 magazine stopped publishing in May 1971, the reason being it was too expensive to publish!