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I was on the PATH train with Officer Perry on Dec 22, 1980. I boarded the PATH train in Newark on my way to NYC to Sam Goody to buy record albums as Xmas presents. The person who killed Officer Perry boarded the PATH train with a boom box and a lit cigarette. Officer Perry was in plainclothes and I did not know he was a police officer until he approached the killer, identified himself as a police officer, and asked the killer to put out his cigarette and turn down the volume on his boom box. Officer Perry was very courteous to the killer and told him he didn't want any problems -- he just wanted the killer to put out his cigarette and turn off his boom box. The killer was belligerent to Officer Perry each time Officer Perry made his request to the killer. When we entered the Journal Square station Officer Perry announced to everyone on the PATH car that he was arresting the killer and asked all of us to exit the train car. As Officer Perry exited the car with the killer, the killer spun around, grabbed Officer Perry, and they both fell off the platform and onto the tracks. After a few seconds I heard a POP, POP, POP, and the killer jumps up from the tracks with a gun in his hand, looks at all of us, turns and runs off. I later read that he was caught and sent to jail for life.
The recent assassination of the two police officers last week in NYC and the article in the NY Daily News on Christmas Day brought back vividly the events of Dec 22, 1980 for me. I remember distinctively what happened in that PATH car that day; that the killer got on the car with the lit cigarette and boom box and dared anyone to say anything to him. This was 1980 when 8 people a day were being killed in NYC. Officer Perry was much shorter than the killer and he could have ignored him and he would be alive today. But Officer Perry saw how scared everyone was when the killer got on the PATH train and he became the "blue line" between everyone on that car and the killer, and I am very sorry that he lost his life that day protecting me and everyone else on that train car.
What is even more sadder than Officer Perry's senseless death is that I read the killer was released after 22 years in jail. I saw the killer get on the train and I was 10 feet from him when he jumped up from the tracks after mortally wounding Officer Perry . He looked like he didn't give a shit about anyone and he should have never seen the light of freedom after killing Officer Perry . If I had the slightest idea that the killer was up for parole I would have told my story to the parole board and asked them to make sure the killer was never released.
Seeing this story today in the daily news and seeing the picture of Officer Perry's son Brian brought tears to my eyes once again -- 34 years after that tragic day. Any of us could have been killed that day be the killer with the gun in his pocket and a chip on his shoulder if not for Officer Perry -- and as a result I have had the opportunity to live a great life with two wonderful kids and a wife of 30 years that is my everything. That day seared forever in my soul the reason why the police are the only thing that stand between us and the killers that cross our "PATH" every day.
May Officer Perry rest in peace and his family know that he was truly a hero on Dec 22, 1980 and I will forever appreciate his bravery that day.
December 25, 2014