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JULY 28 - AUGUST 04, 2015

The Rookies -1

J. Gary DiLaura

JULY 28, 2015

After graduating from Niagara Falls High School, I attended the University of Buffalo where I hoped to earn a degree in Engineering and play a little football. Even with encouragement from a great coach and person, Buddy Ryan, I didn’t feel that a football career was in my future so I applied to and was accepted by General Motors Institute in Michigan. I graduated with a degree in Engineering.

In February 1969, I was sworn in as an FBI Agent by Assistant Director Clyde Toleson, the FBI’s disciplinarian and the infamous “deep throat”.  Next was the FBI Academy on the Marine Base , Quantico,VA. I have to say that a highlight of a tough training program was meeting and hearing Marine sniper, Carlos Hathcock, who had 93 confirmed Vietnam kills, speak when he stopped by the FBI Academy on the Marine Base at Quantico.

The FBI is charged with enforcing the laws of the United States, Title 18 of the United States Code. There were 179 violations when I joined which were split into various programs including; Violent Crime, White-collar Crime, Security, Fugitives, Organized Crime, and so forth. Each violation was assigned a FBI number. Bank Robbery was a 91, Escaped Fed Prisoners were 76s, Unlawful Flight 88, Military Deserters were 42, Theft From Interstate Shipment was a 15 case. Agents often carried 40 to 50 cases, with some being quick turn over, others not. The most desirable work was action cases like Bank Robbery, Fugitives, Kidnapping, Skyjacking, or anything dangerous and high profile, not James Bond type work. Security work was too boring and nothing close to 007 movies; sitting in plants (observation posts) watching Russians…being controlled by the State Department, frustrating and boring!

All rookie, first office Agents worked Applicant cases to learn report writing, background checks and basic investigative skills. They were also assigned Fugitive cases like 42s (Deserters) to learn how to make arrests. IO Fugitives, (Identification Order Fugitives) were fugitives who were mostly 88s or 76s (Fugitives) but were extremely dangerous. IO fugitives were the subject of those Post Office “Wanted Posters” you used to see and only became IO’s for pretty serious, offenses and fugitive status for a year. That’s where the FBI Top 10 Fugitives mostly came from. First office Agents weren’t assigned IO Fugitives.

 After training school, I was assigned to the Charleston Resident Agency out of the Columbia, SC Field Office. The Agent In Charge (SAC) Roland Trent was a great person and leader for whom I had a lot of respect.

 When myself and two other first office Agents, Jim and Dennis arrived, the Charleston Office was “very relaxed” to say the least. The Senior (Sr) Agent/ Supervisor seldom carried his gun and I was told that he had spent most of his career sitting in a “plant” across from a Russian embassy in the New York Office, taking pictures and probably never made an arrest in his 20 previous years.

Right from the start, the three of us, timed our applicant cases so we could work the fugitive cases together and started kicking in doors, making arrests regularly. This prompted irate citizens, to call “Sr” and complain and that resulted us getting hollered at lot but it didn’t stop us. We knew the law and followed it. We also teamed up with a N Charleston Detective. We learned there was a bounty on 42s and that the Det could collect it and did. He then started sharing info with us. This resulted in cases that would never have been opened otherwise. We were making things happen!

We grabbed a 42 fugitive deserter who was different, very respectful, polite, mature, not the typical deserter, and when I was checking him over for scars, marks and tattoos I saw 4 or 5 AK 47 bullet entrance wounds in his upper body with an equal amount of exit wounds on his back. I was upset to have arrested a Vietnam hero (in my eyes) and wanted to know how he could desert after all he went through. The story he told made sense as to why he left and I asked what he wanted. He said “an honorable discharge”. Not knowing what or if I could do anything, I said I would see what could be done. I spoke to the right person who managed to get all the military charges dismissed. Sometime later I learned that the” hero” had received his discharge and said “thanks”.

This young man started calling me and giving us information and then, he told me about a black male, living in Charleston, who bragged about doing a stick- up of a delicatessen in the Bronx the previous fall. This guy claimed he shot a NY Police Officer during his escape. While the NY FBI Office was trying to verify or dismiss the info given them, my investigation had determined that this “bragger” was also an IO Fugitive, wanted for other armed robberies.

As an aside, Dennis would be shot later in his career by an IO fugitive at point blank range with a 45 auto and thank God, survived! IOs were the real deal!

 Then the switch board lit up. There was indeed such a robbery and the Police Officer was shot! Photos they obtained, after we identified him as an IO, were shown in a photo spread to robbery witnesses, they identified him as the shooter! 

We were planning our early morning raid for the IO fugitive when Sr came out of his office and announced he would “lead” the raid. I heard that the SAC told Sr to go as he wasn’t planning on going! I really endeared myself to Sr when I reminded him to bring his gun! Remember we three rookies had made many arrests in just a few months gaining very important experience while the number Sr had made was unknown  and in my opinion, it  showed the next morning.

When we arrived at the house, Sr told Denny and Jim to take the back and that he and I would take the front. I was worried and told Dennis that if they heard a call for help to break down the back door and come in quick. I drew my gun and stepped to the side of the front door. Sr stood directly in front of the door, with his hands in his pockets, and told me to holster my gun. I pointed out that the fugitive shot a cop and is supposedly armed, but that didn’t matter, so I holstered my gun but kept my hand on it. I thought to myself,“ What a freaking moron!”.

A woman, who turned out to be the mother, answered the door and told Sr that her son was not there. While Sr stood there arguing, I drew my gun and went in. The subject was at the kitchen table and I told him to keep both hands on the table and do not move. When he saw me holster my gun and pull out cuffs, he pushed back from the table and thrust his right hand into his pocket. With no time to draw, I dove for him and grabbed his hand, keeping it in his pocket, I felt a small gun, and hollered “gun” and for the boys to come in. Sr was still at the front door!

 After a brief struggle, we had the fugitive cuffed and under control. In his pocket was a .25 automatic, cigarette lighter! Nobody said criminals were very smart. That almost cost him his life. My question to him as to why he did that went unanswered.

SAC Roland Trent called me the next day to say thanks for doing a good job on the investigation, Sr didn’t say a word, go figure! This was the first IO ever arrested by the Charleston FBI and he got to “supervise” it!

Within a week or so, another major case started in Charleston with two big gunfights just south of Charleston where a Sheriff was killed and a Deputy wounded by a Charleston hood. There was never so much action in Sleepy Hollow before and it got “even hotter”. More on this next week.


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