©1999 - 2005
Edward D. Reuss
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NY Cop for the NYCOP
By Dennis M. Banahan

A few days ago, I received a very gracious invitation to write an article for the NYCOP, and to be honest, I was quite thrilled and honored at the invitation. But as I sat down at the computer to knock out a short story, trepidation set in. A story for the NYCOP! New York cop! NEW YORK...cop. The Big Apple. What in the world could I write about that could possibly impress a New York copper? I mean, Chicago isn't exactly a little hick town...but the Big Apple! I was thinking about telling a story of when I was a homicide dick and I handled a triple homicide. Some crazy little crack head cut this woman's head off, as well as her arms and legs, and strangled the woman's three-year-old baby. The woman's name was Mary. She was a part-time prostitute. Her common-law husband, Be-bop, was missing at that time and was the prime suspect until we recovered his body the next day, minus his head. We dubbed him the Headless Whoresman. We recovered his head a week or so later in a garbage can. But the New York coppers probably handle dismemberment or two before lunch everyday. So, I decided instead to tell a story about one of the best policemen, and one of the best bosses, for whom I ever had the opportunity to work. His name was John Gallagher. He was a former New York policeman. I don't know when he left the NYPD to join the DEA, but when I transferred into the DEA Task Force in 1981, he was the DEA group supervisor.
Gallagher was almost too good looking to be a real cop. He looked like the TV police; tall and tan, even during the harshest of Chicago winters, and always dressed to the nines. Never had a hair out of place. He had a great sense of humor and kept most of us laughing most of the day, but on his serious side, he was one of the most knowledgeable guys about organized crime I have ever met. I'll bet the way I'm describing him, all the street policemen out there that are reading this article are thinking the guy's a dork. Believe me, he wasn't. When it got right down to the real nitty-gritty, John Gallagher wasn't afraid to get his clothes dirty or his hair messed. He carried two medicine balls in his scrotum at all times. Let me tell you about the day that John Gallagher earned my undying respect. I don't remember the year and I don't remember the day. Maybe my subconscious is deliberately blocking it out. I do remember that it was in the middle of a sweltering Chicago summer and the mercury in the thermometer was nearing the 100-degree mark. We, the Chicago Police assigned to the DEA Task Force, were going to do a two kilo cocaine buy/bust around 10:00 A.M. The guy we were buying the dope from was a bad, bad actor from down South. His name was Baker. He was residing in Chicago at the time while fighting extradition from Kentucky on a murder beef ...and it wasn't his first. Physically, he was a tough guy. He made a point out of beating up one or two people a day to stay in shape. Everybody in the joints he frequented was scared to death of him. Our undercover guy was one of the best in the business and already had a few smaller buys into Baker. The DEA had given us a $60,000.00 flash roll.

Baker showed up at 10:00 A.M. as scheduled but told our undercover guy he didn't have the dope. He said that the guys that had the dope were Colombians and that they wouldn't give him the dope until they had the money in their hands. Apparently, they trusted Baker about as much as we did. So, the undercover officer told him to take him to the Colombians and they'd do the deal. Baker said the Colombians wouldn't meet with anybody new and the only way they were going to get the deal done was if the undercover officer fronted him the 60 "g:" Well, obviously, that didn't sound like a plan. The undercover officer and Baker haggled out there on the street for about forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, four of our surveillance guys were stuffed in the back of a van about a quarter block away, too close to the scene to turn on the engine and run the air conditioning. Finally, Baker got into his car and left. We put a loose tail on him. The undercover officer stood pat. The surveillance guys in the point-van still couldn't get out for a breath of air or turn on the air conditioning for fear of jeopardizing the deal. They didn't know when Baker would return.

The moving surveillance unit followed Baker to the Colombian's house. Baker went inside and after 15 minutes or so he came out accompanied by two young Colombian men. Baker got into his car and the two Colombians got into their car and followed him back to the undercover officer's location. The Colombians parked about a half block away from the undercover officer. We watched them watch Baker who watched the undercover officer. Baker approached the undercover officer again and pointed out the Colombians' car down the block. He continued to try to convince the undercover officer to give him the 60 grand, then he would walk down the block, give the money to the Colombians, and return with the package. The undercover officer adamantly refused to let go of the money, of course, until the dope was in his hands and told Baker, in no uncertain terms, that he wouldn't trust him holding his two dollars for the poor box. Baker walked back down the block and got into the car with the Colombians. He was apparently trying, and trying desperately, to convince them to front him the dope, but they were as adamant about refusing to front him the dope as was the undercover officer about fronting him the money. Meanwhile, a blistering sun continued to beat down on the surveillance van. The brain fluids of the guys' inside the van had to be percolating by that time. I thought for sure that when the deal was over, we would open the van doors and there would just be a large puddle of water where our surveillance guys had once sat. We had been out there four or five hours already. If we knew for sure that the Colombians had the package with them, we would've taken them down right then and settled for the Possession instead of the Delivery charge...but we didn't know.

Baker made several more trips up and down the block between the Colombians and the undercover officer in the next few hours but to no avail; back and forth, forth and back. Whatever Baker's cut of the pie was supposed to be he was working hard for it. Finally, the Colombians pulled out. We had reached an impasse. It was a no-go. Baker continued to talk to the undercover officer. They were standing in the middle of the block on a long commercial street. Another half- hour passed. Then, unexpectedly, Baker and the undercover officer entered a breezeway in the middle of the block. Seconds later, the undercover officer hit the silent alert signal. It was a bust. All the surveillance units converged on the spot. You guessed it! The moment they entered the breezeway Baker threw an elbow into the undercover officer's face and grabbed the bag with the $60,000.00 in it... and his ass was in the wind. His car was still on the scene though so we figured he couldn't have gone too far.
Some of the surveillance units jumped back in their cars and sped off to search the area. Several other officers, including myself, took off on foot to search the alleys and rooftops. I had been sitting with John Gallagher all day in his car. Gallagher got into the car and drove off by himself. Moments later, I was running down the alley with my gun drawn and I guess somebody called the police to report a man with a gun. Three or four blue and whites responded and drew down on me in the alley and ordered to me to drop my gun. I hesitated for a second, a very brief second, as I thought to myself, can't these guys see I'm a policeman! No, I guess a guy with a ponytail and a beard wearing an earring may not be immediately recognizable as one of Chicago's finest. After identifying myself and explaining the circumstances, the blue and whites joined in the search for Baker. I'd clean out my shorts later.

We all figured we were knee- deep in manure. The undercover officer was kicking himself in the ass forever stepping into the breezeway with Baker, but Baker had told him that the Colombians had returned and agreed to make the exchange behind the building. What else could he do after going round and round for ten hours? The surveillance units were kicking themselves because Baker had gotten away...with the 60 g. How the hell could we let him get away? We had the point vehicle right on top of them and surveillance units blocking all avenues of escape. We had anticipated the possibility of a rip. What we had not anticipated was the two -foot wide breezeway between two of the commercial buildings. The rest of the buildings on the block all abutted one another. John Gallagher was probably the coolest head amongst us and had the most to lose. After all, he had authorized his agency to give us the $60,000 and was with us to make sure the money didn't go south.
An hour or so had passed when Gallagher's voice calmly came over the car-to-car radios. "I see the bastard. He's coming out of a store."

"Where are you at, John?" everyone tried to chime into their radios at once. Gallagher, being a native New Yorker, had no idea in the world of any of the street names on Chicago's southside.

"Shit, I don't know. He's started to move fast. I'm taking him down.

"Baker ran back into the supermarket with Gallagher in pursuit. Gallagher snatched him in Aisle 5 right next to the frozen turkeys. The force necessary to effect the arrest was put forth (I know you policemen out there have incorporated that phrase into one or more of your reports). When we arrived on the scene, Gallagher was escorting Baker to the car by the scruff of the neck.

Baker didn't have the money and, to make matters worse, denied that he ever had the money. We introduced him to the undercover officer and tried to convince him of the futility of denying any further that he ever had the money. Still, he stated that he didn't know what we were talking about. We told him that the money was government pre-recorded funds and that he would never have the opportunity to spend it in prison. No, he didn't know what we were talking about.

We went back into the store and removed every item from the shelves, the frozen food sections, the produce section, and the back rooms. Nada.
Gallagher instructed one of our units to go back to the Colombians' house and pick them up for questioning. When the officers returned to the scene with the Colombians, they proved to be less stupid and less willing to go to prison than Baker did. They admitted they had been on the scene earlier and then went home. They returned later, which we did not know, taking only alley routes. They had in fact been in the alley when Baker told the undercover officer they were there. The Colombians probably had the dope with them and were ready to do the deal but Baker decided a rip would be easier and financially more rewarding. The Colombians said Baker had thrown a bag through their open car window as he ran past them in the alley and told them to hide it. They said they never looked in the bag and didn't know its contents (right) but hid it as Baker had instructed. They took us to a third floor attic of a dilapidated apartment building about five miles away and, after removing several floor boards, relinquished the bag with the $60,000 still intact.

Well, it didn't turn out as well as we had expected. We didn't get the dope...but, then again, we didn't lose our $60,000 either. The guys in the surveillance van went to Dugan's Drinking Emporium later that night and replaced all the bodily fluids they had lost...and then some. I guess all's well that ends well. The worst part of the day was when we had to tell John Gallagher his hair was mussed.

"Shit," he mumbled under his breath as he reached for his pocket comb. It was the first time I saw him get flustered all day.

Copyright © 2000, Dennis M. Banahan. All rights reserved.



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