WHAT’S FOR LUNCH ?

The Z Team, Benny Abruzzo, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones were on a role busting drug offenders almost every day.  They enjoyed their jobs and knew that they were making a dent in cleaning up the streets of Newark.  They worked hard and lived on the edge every day.

They rewarded themselves with the days they could just sit, relax and have lunch together with a few laughs.  Lunch was a big deal, you might find them in some of the best local restaurants in town although a slice of good pizza or a hot dog smothered in onions and potatoes were favorites too.

Lunch was Benny’s favorite time of day.  As a young boy, his mother Katherine would send him to school with a pepper and egg sandwich on 1/2 a loaf of Italian bread in a paper bag oozing with olive oil or sausage and pepper sandwich dripping in oil and running down onto to pants.  He didn’t care, he was envied by everyone in school carrying their boring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

To this day, Benny is still in search of his mother’s authentic homestyle cooking and you can find him any day of the week having lunch at his favorites joints like Top of the Park in Boonton where they serve him some favorites like escarole and beans with a side of juicy meatballs or their signature dish,  cod fish oregano.  He’ll travel to Casa DiNapoli in Union City for Scungilli in a spicy tomato sauce or bacalla salad just like his mother made or to Parsippany’s Reservior Tavern for homemade sausage with potatoes with a cold beer. He’ll travel to Lu Cas in Edison, NJ any day of the week to enjoy the best Seafood Fra Diavolo you’ll ever taste.   It’s no wonder why he’s developed the gout in his retirement years.   His car has never left New Jersey but he manages to go over the allotted mileage every year just going to lunch.

I can’t help myself getting sidetracked with food and Benny’s love for food but back to the Z TEAM and their stories.

Sargent Peter Nevargic from the narcotics squad received a tip that drugs were being sold outside the Federal Building in Newark from a hot dog vendor.  The Z Team was informed to set up surveillance on the vendor.  The vendor had a booming business, selling dogs to many of the employees from the Federal Building and passers by.   The tip was that if you had the code word and an extra $10 you could buy a deck of heroin with your loaded dog.  Eddie went in for the buy, it was easy, he walked away with a loaded hot dog and a deck of heroin on the side.  Al and Benny came in for the bust.  The vendor had over 240 decks of heroin ready to go with your order.

Thank God that job was over quick.  They almost missed lunch.

The hot dog vendor wasn’t the only guy in town selling “lunch with a punch.”  Charley’s University Pizzeria and Restaurant located near the Newark College of Engineering was known for selling marijuana to students and many locals.  The owner of the pizzeria was the supplier of the controlled substance and his business was booming.  Order a slice of pizza, with the special side sauce and an extra $5 and everyone was happy.  After a few days of surveillance and a few slices of  terrible pizza without the special sauce the Z Team made their move and arrested Charley for the sale of drugs, intent to sell and possession of a loaded 38 revolver.

So remember if the business is booming and the food is not so good, it might be a front for elicit activity. ImageImageImageImage

 

HOW MANY PULL-UPS ???

In August 1969 Benny was transferred to the Narcotics squad along with 11 other tough guys who would dedicate their lives and careers to the job of cleaning up the streets of Newark.  After bouncing around with different partners, Benny teamed up with Mitch McGuire as a regular partner.  The two were relentless in their pursuit of criminal activity and did whatever it took to get the job done.  The job called for some creative ideas, fast thinking, sharp awareness and their own personal strength to keep going.  The two knew the game of “good cop – bad cop”, and were able to engage a handful of informants.  With informants, you give them a deal too good to refuse and they give you information on criminal activity.  I can’t tell you what those deals where so use your imagination.

It was getting close to the end of their shift on Jan. 21, 1972 when they made the rounds stopping to talk to their informants.  This particular night, one informant told them there was a drug deal going down around 8PM on Elizabeth Ave.  Working late was never an issue with either cop, they were addicted to the job, so they called the captain in order to set up a surveillance team at the address on Elizabeth Ave.  Benny and Mitch reached the address first and scoped out the place.  They knew the apartment with the drugs was on the second floor, moving around to the back of the building, the second floor was easier access because each window had a brick ledge which could be used to maneuver from one apartment window to another.  Benny shimmied from one window to another until he reached the right apartment, he pulled himself up to the open window and saw in clear view a table loaded with drugs ready to be bagged up.  He then walkie-talkied the surveillance team to go in through the front while he covered the back window.  He kept himself pulled up to watch any activity inside.  The cops rang the front door bell, the suspects opened the door not expecting the police. The drugs where in plain view and it was too late to hide them.  The five suspects were arrested for possession of over $25,000 worth of heroin and narcotics paraphernalia. 

A court case was to be assigned but only after a Suppression Hearing which was held by a liberal Judge and liberal Public Defender who never believed the cops and often sided with the criminals.  The hearing was to see if the evidence was gained legally and the actions of the police were believable. 

The smart-ass public defender did not believe that Benny was able to see the drugs from the window because he just couldn’t see how he could have held himself up in a pull-up position for any length of time. So the public defender tried to pull himself up using the judge’s bench with his legs folded.  He could not budge himself one inch so he then challenged Benny to do the same.  So Benny walked up to the Judge’s bench, asked how many pull-ups he wanted him to do and proceeded to do many pull-ups staring the judge in the eyes with each pull-up.  The judge said “Okay, okay,” Officer Abruzzo, you can stop now as the people in the court room chuckled.

The case was eventually brought to trial and the 5 defendants where found guilty of all charges.

This was a case to be celebrated by all the officers involved, Mitch McGuire, Eddie Bimbo, Louis Martins, Joseph Costa,  Alfred Pepe, Angelo D’Onofrio, Bobby Scott, Jack O’Leary and Benny Abruzzo, not just because they locked up these guys but because justice had been served.

 

end of the law.ImageImageImageThat really is Benny hanging on the window ledge..Check out the white socks and the balding head….

THE ENFORCERS – TACTICAL FORCE TEAM

In early 1969 a new Tactical Force was developed in the Newark Police Department.  The city was in desperate need of new methods to combat the increase in violent crimes. Captain Chris Volz was to head up the Tactical Squad with 36 highly trained men who would be on call 24 hours working in plain clothes, uniforms, on foot and in patrol cars.  Over 200 men where screened for this dangerous and very intense job.  The preferential men were as follows:  Robert Scarpone, Thomas Rizzo, Richard Capobianco, James Pittaro, Baldesario (Benny) Abruzzo, William Richardson, David Gordon, Stanley Ford, William Leone, George Lytwin, Robert Rankin, John Baird, James Moretti, Peter Leone, Nicholas Guarino, Gary Egan, Patrick Dullaghan, Alberico Alfano, Joseph Ward, Donald Walsh, Phillip Walker, Eugene Nicholson, William Coley, Richard Schmalz, Daniel Blue, James Ventola,, Joseph Mosca, Charles Conte, Joseph Curran, Charles Kelly Jr., & William Clark.  They were the new enforcers,  young, strong, eager, sharp and dedicated men ready to aggressively attack the city’s criminal activity.

The three new sergeants assigned to the force were Chester Popek, Antonio Bonavita and Richard Masterson, better know as “Bat” Masterson.

Sergeant Popek chose Benny Abruzzo as his driver and partner knowing of Benny’s previous reputation as a police officer.  The first week they drove together in their unmarked car they were called by the dispatcher of a robbery in progress at a gas station. They were given the description of the suspects and told they were both armed with guns.  Sergeant Manghisi was also in an unmarked car and was able to track and follow the suspects until Popek and Benny were in close proximitry, both cars then blocked each end of the street trapping their suspects.  Knowing they were armed and dangerous, they drew their weapons and captures both robbers.  they were in possession of .25 caliber automatics and marijuana.

There wasn’t a night that went by without several arrest from these Enforcers but Benny and the Department knew there was more to be done.  Benny knew that the Narcotics Squad was in desperate need of new blood, new direction and giving top priority in cutting down crimes being fueled by drugs.  He complained constantly to Sergeant Popek not knowing that his brother-in-law Lt. Al Gomes ran the Narcotics Unit.  He asked Benny what would you do if you were assigned to the Narcotics Unit and he said, ” I’ll show you what can be done, just give it to me.”  And that was the first step into his transfer to Narcotics where he would stay for the next 17 years and make a huge difference in the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey.

You won’t want to miss the action coming up.  They didn’t call him Kojak for nothing.ImageImage

SUSPICION AND INTUITION

Shortly after walking the beat, Benny was assigned to work as a plain clothes police officer in an unmarked car.  The job of the unmarked car was to look for suspicious characters, questionable activity and to respond to crimes in progress.  He was assigned to work with John Marshall and John Arnold on rotation.  Trusting in your partners to cover your back is an essential part of the job.

Benny’s only quandary was dressing in plain clothes.  He definitely has his quirks, one being that he liked to wear his pants a little short in case he had to run fast or jump a fence, the other being that he would only wear short white socks.  He just didn’t like his feet to sweat in dark socks so he actually had a doctor’s note saying he couldn’t wear black socks which were required by the police department.  He always found a way to get his way.

One night while on routine patrol they spotted a suspicious looking guy, just cops intuition.  As they all exchanged looks, the guy then took off like a bat out of hell, the two sharp-eyed, fleet footed cops jumped out of the car and chased the suspect into a building,  onto the roof where they where sharply aware that he fit the description a man wanted for the murder of a retired police officer. They had memorized his photo on a wanted poster in the precinct.

Retired Police Officer Arthur E. Henry was shot to death while interrupting a hold up of a clothing store on Market St. in Newark.  The suspects got away with $35 from the customers in the store.  A great man and hero lost his life over that.

The suspect was arrested and arraigned on murder charges.

The 2 men involved in his murder has not been caught until Benny and Arnold caught up with one guy and he then gave up his partner in crime who was then apprehended in Florida.

Now I think we all understand why he wears short pants.  Hate to think he couldn’t catch the bad guy if he was tripping over his pants.  40 Years later he’s still wearing his pants too short, just in case….Image

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REAL COPS AND ROBBERS

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So we left off at Benny twirling his night stick while walking the beat and now the real action starts.

He’s been a walking the beat for about 7 months along with another rookie cop Robert Briganti, both being city boys they are keenly aware of their surroundings.  They are on foot patrol on a cold winter night in February  when they observed some unusual behavior from the shoppers and store clerks at the A & P Supermarket.  The people in the store were all motionless with the look of fear on their faces.  Both rookies feared that if a hold-up was in progress there could be serious injuries if  weapons were involved.   Benny went into the store while his partner stayed outside . As soon as he entered the store a store clerk knowing Benny spoke Italian, yelled out in Italian that the men just robbed them at gun point.   He quickly ran out after them and  then heard 3 shots fired towards his partner.  He was aware that his partner was not hit and he had a clear target of one of the suspects running into an alley way,  he pulled the trigger of his .38 revolver and hit the robber in the buttocks sending him down to the ground.  He then apprehending the robber who was holding a .45 caliber revolver and the stolen money.  The other suspect was chased and apprehended on a rooftop by the responding police officers.

He and his partner were both given a Medal of Honor for their courage in the face of extreme danger and their concern for the lives of many innocent citizens as they refrained from using their weapons until an opportunity prevailed.

They were also awarded a Certificate of Merit- Police Officer of the Month for the commendable service performed.

This is only in the beginning…He has a long career with many dangerous criminals just waiting to get caught by this  true life character Benny who fights  for TRUTH-JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY.

Oh and by the way, he still has dreams of chasing bad guys as I often witness him thrashing in his sleep.  He always catches the bad guy even in his dreams.

The twirling Night Stick (Baton)- ” You’ll knock your eye out kid.”

In the police academy, each new police officer had to learn how to twirl their night stick..Not sure what the twirling meant but I can see why their are few or no baton twirlers at the football games.  Anyway, Benny’s first job out of the police academy was to walk a 4 mile beat on South Orange Avenue in Newark.  He didn’t mind because he loved the exercise, being outside and he had a chance to look at all the sexy women.  Well, to look cool on the beat, he twirled his night stick, not being very good at it he still kept it moving.  He came across a”hot babe” (his words), and being distracted, he hit himself in the head over his eye with the stick..Back at the station and bleeding from his eye brow he had his first and only “on the job” injury.

I’d say, he would still hit himself with the night stick if a “Hot” woman walked by…ImageImage

Alvin, Eddie and Benny-Ready for the Premiere of the movie American Gangster at the Apollo Theatre in NYC

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Eddie Jones, Benny and Alvin Spearman dressed in their Sunday suits and ready to attend the premiere of “American Gangster” at the Apollo Theatre in NYC