Listen to Steve Osborne read from ‘Stockbroker’ here.
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I was hanging out behind the desk in the Ninth Precinct staring up at the clock. It was 1:50 a.m. and in ten more minutes I could sign out and call it a night. Me and my guys had been looking all night for a collar, but nothing worthwhile came our way. I was thinking it was time to switch to Plan B—go have a beer.
I figured we were dealing with some nerdy little stockbroker who might panic and barricade himself inside. I wanted this to a be a nice, quick, easy collar. Plus I wanted to get a statement out of him before his team of high-priced lawyers marched into the station house.
Some nights it just turns out that way. My guys were good cops and the Ninth was a busy place but anti-crime cops are only allowed to make quality arrests, like robbery, burglary, grand larceny, grand larceny auto, assault, rape, and of course, gun collars. Sometimes we make a couple of collars a night and everybody gets on the “sheet.” And sometimes no matter how hard we look we come up dry. Tonight was one of those nights.
Anti-crime cops are usually the best cops in the precinct—or, as we say, the most active. They’re the cops that like to go out and do the job and don’t mind rolling around on the ground once in a while with some bad guy and getting a little dirty. We’re the cowboys in the precinct who go out in the street and come back with the best collars.
We’re not allowed to answer radio runs or take a collar from a sector car just because they don’t want it. All our stuff is self-generated. Our job is to go out and hunt. And it is like hunting—very much so.
I had just come down from the locker room after taking off my vest and switching to my little .38-caliber off-duty revolver. Hanging out behind the desk with me were two of my cops. They hadn’t changed yet. I guess they were hoping someone might get robbed in front of the station house, which wasn’t all that unusual in this neighborhood. So I nudged them along—“Come on, I’m thirsty, let’s go get a beer.”
The desk in every precinct is the center of all activity. This is where the desk officer runs his mighty ship, and everything that occurs in a precinct flows through this five-foot-high by fifteen- foot-wide wooden helm.
Behind me the wall was lined with several plaques bearing the faces of police officers followed by the words “Killed in the Line of Duty.” It’s a constant reminder for everyone, cop or civilian, who stands before the desk of the sacrifices that have been made. It is a constant yet subtle reminder of how dangerous police work can be. All cops convince themselves, “It won’t be me,” myself included.
I was starting to get a little antsy and told my guys when they were done dicking around to meet me at the bar down the block. As I turned to leave, the cop on the telephone switchboard said, “Hey Sarge, I got a girl on the phone who says she was raped and she knows where the perp is. Do you want to talk to her?”
I looked over to my two cops and said, “You guys still looking?” Both heads enthusiastically nodded in the affirmative.
I took the phone, identified myself, and asked the girl what happened. From the tone of her voice she sounded upset, but she had it together enough to give me a brief story. I told her to stay where she was and we would be right over. It was now 2:00 a.m.
As I was interviewing the victim on the phone, she said the perp was a millionaire stockbroker and he would be leaving the country in the morning. She warned us if we didn’t get him tonight she didn’t know when he was coming back, so we had to grab him now. She also said he lived in some really expensive loft apartment on the Bowery. This was starting to sound like a breeze. Locking up some Wall Street suit-and-tie type in his fancy apartment would be easy.
My plan was to meet the complainant, re-interview her in person, then hurry over to the perp’s apartment. If everything went good we could scoop this guy up, bang out some paperwork, and I might have enough time left over to grab a beer before the bar closed.
We found the girl’s apartment easy enough. She lived in a nice building not too far from Riverside Park. When we walked in we introduced ourselves and she did the same. She had a girlfriend with her and asked if she could stay while we talked. She wanted the female support and I had no problem with it.
As soon as I looked at these girls I knew they were not your ordinary run-of-the-mill secretaries or soccer moms. I would later find out my complainant had been a topless dancer in her not-too-distant past. Not that it makes a difference, topless dancers can get raped also. But it can throw some added bullshit into the mix that doesn’t help the case. Making the collar is one thing, going to trial is another.
I went through the story with her one more time but in much more detail. There are elements of the crime that I want to satisfy myself about before I go and kick some guy’s door down in the middle of the night and throw handcuffs on him.
After hearing the story again I was sure we had a collar. She was upset but also very articulate. She seemed like a savvy no-nonsense girl who could take care of herself, but it was obvious something very traumatic had happened to her.
She explained to me she meet the perp not long ago and decided to go out on a date with him. He spared no expense to impress her and treat her right. During their first date he told her that he had recently separated from some supermodel he had been dating. At first I thought that was bullshit, but believe it or not, I later checked it out, and it was true. It was also true he was a millionaire stockbroker. The guy was fucking loaded. She thought she had a real catch on her hands.
You don’t go out on patrol night after night and do the things we do unless you have one hundred percent confidence that the guys you’re working with are going to have your back.
The second time he asked her out she didn’t hesitate. Why would she? Again he spared no expense and sent a limo over to her apartment to pick her up and bring her over to his place. But instead of meeting her downstairs and going out to dinner like they had planned, he told the limo driver to send her up to his apartment and then leave.
When she got upstairs he wasn’t wearing the nice clothes and expensive loafers he did on their last date. In fact he wasn’t prepared to go out at all. The next thing she knows he throws her on the sofa and rapes and sodomizes her. She screamed for help, but the loft apartment had thick cement walls, so the neighbors heard nothing.
After he was finished he threw her a twenty-dollar bill for cab money and that was it. That was her second date. Not even a limo ride home.
I’m sure that when I catch this guy he will have a different version of the events. In most he said/she said cases they do. He will most likely admit to having sex with her but insist it was consensual so there will be no DNA issues. He’ll probably say she was drinking or smoking weed and her recollection shouldn’t be trusted. Acquaintance rapes often boil down to who is more believable. But after hearing her story I was inclined to believe what she said.
I interviewed her for a few minutes until I had heard enough.
I was ready to go and lock this guy up. I asked her if she had his phone number and she said yes. I wanted her to call him and have him meet her outside of his building so they could “talk.” I wanted to scoop him up off the street if possible and not have to deal with him locking himself inside the apartment and not letting us in. I figured we were dealing with some nerdy little stockbroker who might panic and barricade himself inside. I wanted this to be a nice, quick, easy collar. Plus I wanted to get a statement out of him before his team of high-priced lawyers marched into the station house.
I had her call him to try to arrange a meeting outside somewhere so they could talk, but he wasn’t picking up. I had her call him several more times just to annoy him into answering the phone, and after a few more calls it worked. The problem was he was in no mood to talk, so meeting somewhere was out of the question.
I looked over to my two cops and said, “Come on, let’s go get this guy.” I looked over to my complainant next and said, “You’re coming too.” I don’t think she expected this, but I needed her at the scene of the arrest to identify him once we grabbed him. She asked if her friend could come along. She still needed or wanted the female moral support, so I agreed. My guys didn’t mind either, the girlfriend was very pretty
It was almost 3:00 a.m. and the streets were quiet. We pulled over down the block from the perp’s apartment and walked the rest of the way, just in case he was looking out the window.
I told our victim to ring his bell and ask him to come down. I told her to tell him that she needed to see him face-to-face so they could “talk.”
My guys positioned themselves on one side of the glass door, and I was on the other while our victim rang the bell. She rang it several times but no answer. It was an expensive building so I was pretty sure the bell worked.
While she leaned on the buzzer with gusto, we waited. Finally, after what seemed like a long time, a male voice came through the intercom. “Who is it? What do you want?” I whispered in her ear again telling her what to say, “Tell him to come down, you need to see him. You just want to talk.” I was proud of her, she seemed good under pressure. I was sure she would make a solid witness if we ever had to put her on the stand.
She got him to answer again, but the guy’s tone was cold and terse. “Go away, I don’t have time for this shit right now.”
I made a pushing motion with my index finger and smiled. She understood exactly what I wanted and leaned on the buzzer again with everything she had. I was hoping the volume on the speaker in his apartment was turned up loud and this was annoying the shit out of him.
My guys stood ready on the other side of the door. Shields hung from chains around their necks. Guns perched in unsnapped holsters stuck out from under their jackets. Something was going to happen soon, I could feel it. The excitement level was rising.
The gruff male voice answered again, “I told you go away, I don’t have time for this shit.” I whispered into her ear again, telling her what to say. “Tell him you only want to talk about what happened, but if he doesn’t come down you are going to call the police.” She repeated what I said and again she played her part well.
We waited, but no answer. I whispered to her again, “Keep ringing that buzzer till he can’t stand it anymore.”
After what seemed like a long time, her eyes opened wide and a frightened look came over her face. As she looked into the tiny lobby she suddenly blurted out, “Here he comes.”
My shield was hanging from a chain around my neck. I held it in my left hand and prepared to shove it in his face as soon as he opened the door. I knew we were going to startle him, so I wanted him to know we were the police and not some of the complainant’s friends coming to beat him up.
I looked over to my guys, who were pressed up against the wall, knees bent, ready to pounce as soon as the door opened. The metallic click coming from the dead-bolt lock was thunderous. I thought, “Here we go—we got him.”
As the door inched open I spun around and shoved it into his face. I wanted to get my foot inside before he had a chance to close it on us. As I did so I held up my gold NYPD sergeant’s shield and yelled as loud as I could, “POLICE!”
He seemed shocked to see us, but not as shocked as I was to see him. The wimpy little stockbroker I was expecting to see was standing there wearing Kevlar body armor and holding a loaded .380 automatic pistol in his hand. He had no shirt on, just the vest. It was obvious this guy spent a lot of time in the gym.
For just the briefest moment, as I looked at his vest, then looked at the gun in his hand, I couldn’t help but think what an asshole I was. He had his vest on and mine was hanging in my locker because I was too lazy to put it back on. At stressful times like this your mind goes into hyperdrive. You have the ability think full, complete thoughts in just a fraction of a second. Right now I was thinking, I can’t believe my vest is hanging in my locker. Goes to show you there is no such thing as a “ground-ball” collar.
I was charging forward as he was trying to back up. He was raising his pistol to take a shot as I reached for my holstered .38 revolver.
I pushed the door into his face, knocking him backward and slightly off balance. The only thing I could do was go for the gun so I reached out with both hands, grabbing his wrist, and shoved the gun into his chest. There’s not much to talk about at a time like this and communication between partners is short and simple. I yelled, “GUN!”
It’s times like this, when your whole world turns to shit, that you are glad you work with good cops, and my guys were great cops. You don’t go out on patrol night after night and do the things we do unless you have one hundred percent confidence that the guys you’re working with are going to have your back. And as soon as I yelled “GUN!” these guys had my back. They were right on my heels, and were literally climbing up my back to get at the perp. I love these guys.
We all tumbled to the floor of the tiny lobby, rolling around, kicking, punching, yelling, and fighting for our lives.
The guy had a good grip on the gun and I was having a hard time trying to twist it out of his hand. I thought about yelling, “Shoot him,” but the lobby was so small chances were one of us might get hit.
Just when I was thinking how strong this guy was, a big meaty fist flew over my shoulder and landed with thud right in the perp’s face, stunning him. The punch took a little of the wind out of his sails and I managed to rip the gun from his hand. I rolled over and away from him, clutching the gun in a two-hand hold like a football player who just recovered a fumble.
With me and the gun out of the way, my guys overpowered the perp and slapped handcuffs on him. It was over just as quick as it started.
We lifted the perp to his feet and gave the complainant a chance to “view” him before putting him in the car. We needed her to identify him to make sure we didn’t just roll around with some nut who lived in the building and liked to answer the door in the middle of the night with a gun and a bulletproof vest on. That would have been pretty funny.
When we put him in the car he was rear cuffed behind his back and still had the vest on. It was one of those heavy military-type vests that could have easily stopped the bullets we were carrying. I couldn’t help but think the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper could have been “Cop Killed. Perp Had Vest, Asshole Cop Didn’t.” I called for another car to transport my victim and brought the whole caper back to the station house for processing. We had paper- work to do plus he had to be fingerprinted and photographed and she had to be seen by a doctor for injuries and evidence collection.
While my guys did some paperwork and argued over who would get the collar, I went back to the holding cell to make sure our stockbroker didn’t hang himself or try to escape. It was slightly gratifying to see my millionaire rapist stockbroker sulk inside the dingy cell. I mused silently to myself, “And justice for all, motherfucker.”
When he saw me walk into the room he peeked through the bars and asked if he could make his “one phone call.” He obviously watched television.
You might think that I would be pretty pissed at him right now for trying to kill me. You might think that I would tell him to shut the fuck up or maybe open the cell door and beat the shit out of him with the phone. But it doesn’t work that way. I realized a long time ago: you can’t take this stuff personal. If you do, it will just eat you up or worse, get you into trouble. He was not trying to kill me. He was not trying to kill Steve Osborne. He was trying to kill the cop that was coming to lock him up. I was actually more pissed that one of my guys almost got hurt.
I took him out of the cell and walked him over to the phone. I dialed the outside line and handed him the receiver, then stood next to him and listened to his conversation. In a low voice he grumbled into the phone, “Hey it’s me. Listen, I got a little problem. I just got arrested and I need you to call my lawyer.” After a short pause he continued, “What’s that stock going for?”
He waited for an answer, then replied, “A dollar a share. Sell two hundred thousand, I’m going to need some cash for this.”
Now I wanted to punch him in the face! He just made more money from one phone call from jail than I made in more than two years.
I escorted him back in the holding cell and slammed the door shut. The boom from the closing door made the air around us vibrate. Then I shoved the six-inch-long skeleton key in the lock, securing it with a metallic click. I love those sounds. It sounds like justice. And I wanted to remind him he wasn’t on Wall Street anymore.
People like to think cops are racists and only lock up minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. After being a cop for a few years, you learn to dislike people equally.
Because he actually did date a supermodel and was featured in the gossip page of The New York Post a week earlier, I called the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information with the details of the arrest. A television news crew came to the precinct and interviewed me on the front steps of the station house.
The next day the story ran in three New York newspapers. One even printed a picture of the gun and the vest.
A few days later I went down to court to testify in the grand jury. I got the feeling bad news was coming when the ADA called me into her office and asked me to close the door.
First she explained to me we weren’t going into the grand jury that day. Next she threw a name at me that I vaguely recognized from reading the newspapers, a very high-priced attorney who was well known for representing some of the biggest organized crime figures in New York City, and now he was representing my perp. My first reaction was “So what? Who cares?”
She went on to explain that if our perp took a felony conviction he would lose his stockbroker’s license and thus, in his mind, lose everything. He was willing to spend every penny he had to prevent this. And he had a lot of pennies.
I sat and listened as she continued. Looking at this objectively, she explained, if we went to trial most likely we would lose. She was afraid they would destroy our complainant on the stand. I tried to assure her our complainant seemed solid, good under pressure, and I thought she would hold up well on the stand. The ADA had already spoken to the complainant and agreed she seemed solid, but the topless dancer issue was too much of a problem to overcome.
The ADA was well known and well respected in the field of sex crimes. I had a case with her earlier and liked her.
It was time to pull the ace from my sleeve. What about the attempted murder on me? I asked. We had charged him with attempted murder for pointing the gun at me. The apologetic look on her face said more bad news was coming. She explained if he fired a shot at me we would have a great case, but just pointing it at me was not enough. I asked her if he pointed it at some ADA, would it be enough then. She failed to see my humor.
A little frustrated and disappointed I asked her, “So what now, do we buy him a martini and apologize for locking him up?” I was starting to regret not shooting this little prick. The wheels of justice just came to a screeching halt. Funny thing about the law is, one day you are completely justified killing a guy and the next day you can’t even get him one day in jail.
In the end he took a plea to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year’s probation. This wasn’t the first time a case of mine went down the crapper through no fault of my own, and it wouldn’t be the last. I had to remind myself again, “Don’t take this stuff personal—it’s only business.”
About eight months later I strolled into a regular coffee spot of mine—a deli down the block from the perp’s apartment. When I walked up to the counter and ordered, I felt an uncomfortable feeling. I looked over my shoulder and it was him! It took a second for me to recognize him. Since his arrest we had slapped cuffs on a few hundred other guys, and they all start to become a sea of sad, defeated, angry faces. But it was obvious by the way he was eyeballing me he recognized my face right away.
This time I had my vest on, and a 9mm Glock tucked under my shirt. I really didn’t expect him to pull a gun on me, but I didn’t expect it last time either. And I had learned a big lesson.
People like to think cops are racists and only lock up minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. After being a cop for a few years, you learn to dislike everyone equally.
He broke the edgy silence by muttering an unexpectedly humble “What’s up?”
My body and balled-up fist relaxed a bit when I saw he had no interest in fighting. But I growled back the first thing that came into my mind, “You got off pretty fucking easy, huh?”
He spoke slow and deliberately, like he was about to say something that he obviously gave a lot of thought to. “You know you ruined me.”
He had me at “ruined.” I was intrigued. I don’t know what I expected him to say, but this definitely wasn’t it. I had to know more.
“Oh yeah, how so?” I said. I was hoping he wouldn’t disappoint me.
“That little press interview you did. As soon as my clients saw that they all dropped me within a week. I lost everything—millions. Then the company I worked for fired me, and no one else will touch me—I’m finished.”
Even losing millions doesn’t substitute for a little jail time, but I was starting to feel better. It had pissed me off thinking that the only punishment this guy got was a six-figure attorney’s fee. But money to a guy like him was everything in life and he lost it. No more supermodels for him.
It wasn’t the jail time I was hoping for, but it sounded pretty severe so I figured I would cheer him up—show him the bright side. I said, “You’re lucky we didn’t fucking kill you.”
He pursed his lips and nodded his head, contemplating what I just said. He knew I was right. That little 3:00 a.m. run-in we had could have easily ended up with somebody getting shot—either him or me. He realized out of the other possible outcomes that could have happened in that lobby, he didn’t do too bad.
He tried explaining to me that, at the time, he was afraid the victim might show up with a couple of her guy friends and try to beat him up. That’s why he answered the door with the gun and the vest. He tried telling me that in those few seconds of excitement and confusion he never heard me yell “police” or saw the shiny gold shield hanging around my neck.
Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. But it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference if he had got that shot off—I would still be dead. And most likely he would have been dead about one second after me. My guys would have lit him up!
He must have sensed my disappointment at the fact he didn’t receive any jail time. When I grabbed my coffee and turned to leave he tried to console me and said, “Don’t worry—you got me good.”
Before I left and, I hoped, never saw this guy again, I wanted to impart some wisdom I had learned along the way—maybe this little episode in his life could be a learning experience. The answer popped right into my head.
I said, “Don’t take this stuff personal, it’s only business.”
Adapted from ‘Stockbroker’, a story from the book The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop, by Steve Osborne. Copyright © 2015 by Stephen Osborne. Published by arrangement with Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. http://www.randomhouse.com/book/243458/the-job-by-steve-osborne