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©1999 - 2005
Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form

 

CAMPUS KILLING

Thursday, November 7, l974, Tour: 1520hrs X 0010hrs
Assignment: Patrol Sergeant, Radio Motor Patrol Car #1028, 120th Precinct Sergeant's Operator: Police Officer Douglas Solveson

He was a man of letters. He had two master's degrees and was a librarian on the campus of a well-known college on Staten Island, New York. The library windows opened to a panoramic view of the Verrazano Bridge that connected the shores of suburban Staten Island with the more heavily populated Brooklyn. At night, the lights on the bridge looked like a sparking necklace strung between the shorelines. The parking lot of the school was built in tiers on the hillside with a magnificent view. On a clear day, you could gaze far out to sea past Coney Island. Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Highlands of New Jersey stood out on the horizon.

He was a plain looking guy. He was sort of a Casper Milquetoast character. He was only twenty-seven years old, but his receding hairline added more years to his appearance. He had become attracted to a certain undergraduate student. She was a pretty girl who he had become acquainted with during the course of the academic year. The student had used the facilities of the library to do research on her term papers and the Librarian had noticed her. He apparently wanted a more than a casual relationship. She did not share his feelings. She refused his requests for a more intimate friendship. The Librarian harbored dark emotions. He felt spurned by the girl.

On that night in November, she was walking on a pathway of the college campus not very far from the library where the Librarian conspired to wreak vengeance on her for her imagined insults to his pathetic ego. He gripped the large hunting knife as he lay in wait for her. He made it his business to know her class schedule and routine. In the darkness, he watched as she walked towards him. Other students were also in the immediate area of the impending attack. The girl recognized him as he approaching her. He wore a beige trenchcoat and as she neared him, he slashed unmercifully at the hapless girl. Then, he ran headlong into the wooded hillside adjoining the campus. The girl's lifeblood spilled on the cement walkway of the campus. 

It didn't take long for the students to call 911. When the initial responding units arrived, the girl was pronounced dead at the scene. A description of the suspect was broadcast over the police radio. Police Officer Douglas Solveson, Sergeant's Operator, 120th Precinct listened with me to the radio messages. Doug was quite a wheelman when it came to handling a radio car. At high speeds, he could drive a car with the best of them. He was also one of the best marksmen with the service revolver in the Command. We heard the transmission of the attack and the description of the suspect. We listened to the reports of the death of the girl and the follow-up messages regarding the suspect. We were familiar with the wooded area below the college. Emergency Service cops with searchlights were all over the area and we confined our search to the perimeter.

We responded to every call over 911 in that sector on the chance that the suspect would make a mistake by drawing attention to himself and generate a call to 911. Citizens often would call with what appeared to be a routine report of a disorderly man in incidents such as this. Shortly after the homicide, we heard a call of a "suspicious male" in a grocery store. We responded to the store and the owner excitedly pointed and shouted at us. The suspect had briefly entered the store apparently to avoid being seen by police. Taking a few seconds to catch his breath, he had then continued his desperate flight.

Solveson floored the accelerator of the patrol car and we sped down VanDuzer Street until we saw the suspect.  He appeared to be exhausted by his efforts to escape from the murder scene. His eyes were rolling with panic and his mouth was covered with frothy saliva like a racehorse. The front of his trenchcoat was bloodstained mixed with the drool of his spit. He looked like a cornered animal. Solveson turned the patrol car across his path and as we jumped out shouting orders, he showed his empty hands. He had ditched the knife someplace. We cuffed him up and when we notified Central that we had a suspect in custody, all hell broke loose.

Detectives, Emergency Service cops and police brass converged on the place of arrest. The Staten Island Advance had one of their police reporters on the scene to cover the arrest.  A freelance photographer whose photos were featured in the Advance always showed up at times like this. He monitored the police frequencies and responded to many police incidents.  It seemed like he worked twenty-four hours a day. He didn't like me much, I think, because I always made it a point to have a widened crime scene restricted to authorized personnel. I will say that He was a first class photographer. He took some outstanding photos at police incidents.

  It was moments like these that professional jealousy reared its ugly head. This was an unusual arrest due to the nature of the victim and location.  It was sure to make headlines in the newspapers. Homicide arrests were usually handled by the detective assigned to the case. This was done for good investigative reasons. The chain of custody of evidence and statements made by witnesses and suspects had to be handled with professional expertise. Many times the actual arrest of the suspect was made by a uniformed patrol officer who had initially responded to the radio run. When the press flocked to the precinct to conduct interviews, the arresting officer could be cheated of the recognition for the arrest because the assigned detective would be in charge of the investigation. This sometimes resulted in bad feelings between uniformed cops and the detectives.

 The Librarian sat in the back seat of the radio car and blurted out some incriminating statements.  We took him into the 120th Precinct and the assigned detectives took him to the squad room for questioning. I saw the photos taken at the crime scene and was shocked at the ferocity of the attack on the girl. Officers searching the area of the slaying had recovered the murder weapon.

The operations Unit located in One Police Plaza as a matter of procedure notifies the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information. The media is notified of newsworthy incidents as they occur. Within an hour, the entire muster room of the 120th Precinct was filled with television cameras and reporters. We had to present the prisoner before the desk officer to show his physical condition prior to lodging him in the 120th Precinct detention cells located a few steps from the muster room. The television lights and flashing of cameras blinded us as we turned to deliver the Librarian to the cell attendant. When we had lodged the prisoner, we came out of the cellblock and the press encircled us for an interview. Giving testimony before the Grand Jury, at criminal and civil trials, and speaking before various groups requires a certain amount of discipline and training to be an effective speaker. However, being interviewed by the press before TV cameras was a new experience for us.
 
That night, the arrest was featured on the evening news and my wife, Laurel watched with concern as the details of the arrest came over the television. Laurel was always cautious regarding the publicity attached to arrests, which attracted media attention. She never relished the cold glaring light of publicity. She always felt that the loss of anonymity had its price. Laurel was a very private person. It made her uncomfortable to see newspaper reports and photos of me. Television news reports were even a greater cause for concern to her. Staten Island was like a small town in many respects. When we would go out to eat dinner in a local eatery, we would invariably meet another police officer that I worked with. It was also not unusual to be seated near a guy who remembered me as his arresting officer. For that reason, Laurel feared for our safety when my photo was flashed in the newspapers or TV. I think she had a point. Police officers are authorized to be armed at all times, off-duty as well as on-duty. It doesn't take a genius to understand why.

©Copyright  l999 Edward D. Reuss

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