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

 

DEADLY DUEL IN THE HALLWAY

COMBAT CROSS

Awarded for the successful performance of an act of extraordinary Heroism while engaged in personal combat with an armed adversary at imminent personal hazard to life in the intelligent performance of duty.



Patrol Guide, NYPD

December is a dangerous month. Christmas season provides all the ingredients for successful crime. The stores are filled with holiday shoppers eager to spend their Christmas bonus checks.  It is a busy time for cops. Robberies are always up around that time of the year.  Christmas office parties add to the mix with their heavy drinking and extramarital flings that sometimes can become violent family disputes.  December is one of the worst months for assaults on police officers.  Patrol in Manhattan's 9th Precinct was dangerous duty.

The wall behind the desk officer in the stationhouse was a constant reminder to the cops of the 9th Precinct of just how dangerous patrol could be in that Command.  A row of plaques with the names and photos of 9th Precinct cops who has been slain in the line of duty filled the space over the wooden filing cabinets. They were cops who they joked with, went on jobs with, and risked their lives with. They often are reluctant talk about it, but there is a fraternal love that grows between cops who have experienced the dangers and gut-wrenching fear that underlies police work in a busy "house".

Police Officer Donald Muldoon had been assigned to the 9th Precinct since he was a rookie back in 1965. Officer Tom Cimler also was an experienced 9th Precinct veteran. He had over five years on the job, but they had been action packed years.

Photo by: Jill Friedman
“Street Cops”

Both of these men had served during the most trying years in what the cops of that command called the "Fighting 9th"   .For such young officers, they had seen some horrific events take place. Shortly before Muldoon had been assigned to the 9th Precinct, Officer Henry Walburger had been shot and killed in the line of duty.  Both of them had worked with Officer Lawrence Stephane who was stabbed to death by a deranged killer. They also had known Officers Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster both of whom had been assassinated as they walked foot patrol on Avenue B and East 11th Street. These weren't mere names or statistics in a report.  Muldoon and Cimler knew them as flesh and blood cops. 

It was Monday, December 23, l974.  Muldoon and Cimler had been on patrol since after 7 AM and they had handled a few routine jobs.patchlg The 9th Precinct usually wasn't too busy in the early hours of a day tour.  The denizens who gave the cops the most problems usually kept late hours.  By mid-day, the traffic on the police radio would increase.  Muldoon looked at his watch and checked the time - he was an experienced patrol cop.  He always was aware of his location and the time. Things happened fast in the street.  When a job came over or a cop needed assistance, if the cop couldn't tell central the location, that officer was in a world of trouble.  

Muldoon was the operator of the radio car and as he drove up the Bowery he glanced over at the Men's Shelter at 8 East 3rd Street.  It was quiet at this time of day.  The brick building resembled a public school, and the entrance usually had groups of derelicts nearby.  No sign of trouble yet. He listened to the chatter on the police radio as Cooper Square came into view. The famous Cooper Union Hall stood out majestically in the cold winter air.  Here Abraham Lincoln had made a political speech as he began his campaign for the Presidency back in 1860.

 They stopped at the deli on St. Mark's Place and got a couple of sandwiches.  They knew that when it got busier they might not get the chance to eat. Muldoon parked the radio car opposite St. Stanislaus Koska Church on East 7th Street.   It was a good place to eat a quick lunch.

"What 9th Precinct car for a signal 10-30 at 102 St. Mark's Place?"

The voice of the division dispatcher had a sense of urgency that the veteran cops recognized.

 Cimler grabbed the transmitter and answer: "Nine George, K."

"A signal 10-30 at 102 St. Mark's Place, Apartment 3 on the second floor, nothing further." 

Muldoon and Cimler threw the sandwiches out the window as Muldoon put the car in gear and gunned the engine of the RMP. They were only a block away from the scene. Both of them listened intently for more information about the job. Muldoon drove without lights and siren through the Manhattan traffic.  They turned onto St. Mark's Place and noticed a truck parked in front of the location.
 
"Anything further on St. Mark's Place?" Cimler asked. 

"Nothing at this time, K", answered Central.

They instinctively turned down the volume on their portable radios as they arrived on the scene. Muldoon grabbed his oversized flashlight as he slid out of the car. They closed the doors of the car quietly.   The large truck parked in front of the address caught their attention.  The truck carried bottled water and was apparently making a delivery.  They cautiously observed the entrance and from experience knew that the ground floor was probably locked. By a stroke of luck, an unidentified woman who lived in the building offered her key to the cops. They warned her to stay a safe distance as they entered the hallway.

 There was still no more information from Central. What the hell was keeping the 911 operator?  What the cops did not know, was that the 911-turret operator had taken the call and prior to entering the full details of the job, had routed the job to the dispatcher.  That was proper procedure with priority crimes in progress. The 911 operator would then complete the details of the job and additional information would be sent to the car assigned. Muldoon and Cimler has arrived so quickly, the job was still being put into the system.

Muldoon went to the rear of the first floor hallway to check the back door.  It was locked.  There was an eerie silence inside the hallways as the two cops listened intently. Cimler had climbed the stairway to the second floor. The apartment faced the front of the building. Tom stood to the side of the door and listened.  He held his revolver tight to his side.  By now, Muldoon had come up the staircase and stood in the stairwell with only part of his body exposed above the floor.  He could plainly see the door to the apartment. The service revolver felt heavy and the flashlight seemed clumsy as he held it in his non-shooting hand. They exchanged glances and nodded their agreement. Cimler knocked on the door and announced his presence.

The door opened a crack and a male voice said: "Don't move...don't transmit...You are covered by Nitroglycerine."

"What are you talking about?......What do you mean?" said Muldoon.

Muldoon could see that the suspect was a mountain of a man.  His head just about cleared the top of the door. In the next instant, he could see the weapon in the hand of the suspect.

The door opened wider and Muldoon remembered seeing a large flame burst from the muzzle of the weapon as the male fired directly at him.  The pain of the bullet shards tearing into his right side and left thigh didn't prevent him from returning fire. He was in the so-call unsupported "point shoulder" position. He later learned that he had fired all six rounds of the .38 caliber service revolver at the suspect. When I interviewed him, he stated that he recalled a strange sort of silence during the firefight.  He did remember the sound of the bullet striking the railing that he was standing behind. What he didn't know was that the .357 bullet had broken into pieces as it hit the railing. Parts of the disintegrating round struck his side and thigh. Afterwards, the main piece of the bullet was recovered inside the flashlight that he had held in his left hand in front of his chest during the firefight. Later, when they checked the flashlight, they found that the largest bullet fragment had penetrated all four batteries and stopped inside the flashlight. The suspect had actually fired two rounds at Muldoon.  The second round went by his head into the wall behind him.  In the terror of the firefight, the human body must have a natural defense that focuses all the senses where they are most needed.  Muldoon heard no sounds other than the slug striking the banister railing. There had been fourteen shots fired, but he never heard them.  Neither did he hear the shouting of the hostage who was handcuffed inside the apartment.    

Cimler had fired simultaneously in the exchange. He had pumped all six rounds at the suspect. The gunman dropped into the hallway and was dead as he hit the floor.  The autopsy report showed that he had been hit with nine slugs.  The reports also revealed that Muldoon's aim had been good. He had hit the suspect in the head during the exchange of fire. Muldoon was wounded and instinctively backed down the staircase. His empty revolver had fallen from his grip onto the landing.

"Are you all right, Tommie?" he shouted. Cimler didn't answer.

Again, he shouted. He was wounded and his empty revolver was still on the landing above him. He didn't know that the suspect was dead.   

Cimler called to Muldoon that he was OK and they stood in shocked silence as they looked at the dead body.

Outside, Sergeant Rusty Small and Police Officer Nicholas Padula, 9th Precinct, had also responded to the job. They had heard follow up messages from Central about the assignment. 

"Shots fired from the window of 102 St. Mark's Place" the voice of the division dispatcher sounded tense as he relayed the information to the sector cars.

As Small and Padula arrived on the scene, they saw the truck in front of the location. The radio car was hidden from their view as they bailed out of their car.  Padula took cover as Sergeant Small worked his way to the entrance to the building.  Unknown to them, the firefight was over.

Muldoon and Cimler met the Sergeant and Padula at the door.

"We had to shoot someone.  We think he's dead", said Muldoon. 

"Are you sure?" said the Sergeant.

With that Sergeant Small raced up the stairs and could see that the suspect was dead.  Other 9th Precinct cars were on their way to the shooting. 

Cimler put Muldoon into their sector car and raced to Bellevue Hospital. The adrenaline was coursing through Cimler's body as he swerved between cars and snaked the radio car at a high rate speed. The bottom of the car slammed against the pavement as it sped through the intersections. He only knew that he had to get his partner to the emergency room as fast as possible.

As the patrol car careened through the streets, Muldoon put his hand on Cimler's arm and in a calm voice, said:

"Take it easy, Tommie, it was a good shooting. We're OK."

Neither knew the extent of the injuries to Muldoon.  The .357 Magnum slug had broken into pieces and struck his side and thigh.

Muldoon and Cimler had often discussed the choice of hospital in the event that either of them was injured.  Bellevue was the premier trauma center. The emergency room staff was experienced in gunshot wounds.  They knew that they would be in good hands with the medical personnel at Bellevue. Muldoon had carved his blood type and his hospital identity number inside the leather flap of his memo book.  He had been treated in the past for injuries at Bellevue, and the ID blood type info would be helpful if he had lost consciousness. Cimler quickly parked the radio car at the entrance to the emergency room and the medical staff met them at the door. Muldoon was now in good hands. Sergeant Small and Nick Padula arrived shortly after and were relieved to find that Muldoon didn't have life-threatening wounds.

Back at the scene of the shooting, the 9th Squad had arrived and interviewed the truck driver who had been cuffed inside the apartment. He told the detectives that the dead suspect had been a customer since 1969. The driver had arrived that morning with an order to deliver sixteen bottles of water to the suspect.  When he arrived, the suspect had handcuffed him at gunpoint.  The suspect then tricked the super of the building to come to his apartment. At that point, he handcuffed the super and forced the driver to assist him in loading the truck with various articles from the apartment. The suspect had only cuffed one arm of the super to a radiator pipe in the apartment.  The super had a tool belt and took a screwdriver and opened the cuffs and escaped while the suspect and driver were out of the apartment.  The super then called 911.

The truck driver said that the suspect had a large cache of firearms. When he returned to the apartment and found that the super had escaped, he cuffed the driver and told him that he was going to kill any cops that came. He grabbed an automatic rifle and inserted a fully loaded magazine into the weapon.  He listened at the window and heard Muldoon and Cimler as they closed the door of the radio car. He was ready for the cops as they entered the building. When Cimler knocked at the door, the suspect placed the automatic rifle against the wall, and gripped a .357 magnum revolver as he opened the door a crack.  After the short exchange of words, he raised the weapon and fired at Muldoon. The driver huddled in terror during the exchange of gunfire. He shouted to alert the cops to his presence.

The investigation revealed that the dead suspect was a 46-year-old with some strange ideas. He was a native of San Antonio, Texas who had grown up with a fascination for guns.  He eventually went to ministry school and was ordained a minister in Comanche, Texas. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York City where he resided at the St. Mark's address since 1961.  Papers found in his apartment indicated that he was the self-appointed founder and president of a religious oriented society that promoted a concept of "natural precepts".  The papers indicated a complex belief system that included "the mandatory repatriation of every identifiable black to Africa".

Photo by: Jill Friedman
“Street Cops”

When the apartment was searched by the 9th Squad detectives the .357 magnum Colt Python revolver was recovered. The detectives also found a US Model M-14, semi- automatic rifle.  The rifle was loaded with a full magazine of 7.62-mm ammunition.  When they looked further, they found an arsenal of weapons that included 20,000 primers, and thousands of rounds of ammo of various calibers.  There were also various equipment for the holding of many hostages that included handcuffs, handcuff keys, and tape.


The suspect also had plans for taking hostages to the Statue of Liberty. He had mailed a complex set of demands and instructions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York. The letter was addressed to the Regional Director of the FBI in which he threatened:  "Failing that every hostage shall die by explosion, automatic fire or drowning".


 Muldoon and Cimler were awarded the Combat Cross for their actions that day. They went on to be awarded for future police actions, but this award was a special one for them both. They had come very close to death during this fight.

  When new cops were assigned to the 9th Precinct, they would see the light green bar over the shield of these officers.  They all knew what that green bar signified.  The writer had the honor of serving with these two officers in the 9th Precinct in the early 80's. They honored me with their memories of the deadly duel in the hallway. I haven't done them justice in this short story of their valor. I wish to thank them for sharing such a special part of their lives with us.

©Copyright  l999 Edward D. Reuss

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