Thursday, December 12, 2019

The True Stories Behind 'The Godfather' Novel And Films

Eudie Pak at offers a piece of the real-life people and events that inspired Mario Puzo’s The Godfather novel and the Francis Ford Coppola Godfather films.

Based on Mario Puzo's 1969 crime novel of the same name, Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic masterpiece The Godfather (1972) chronicles the fictional Corleone family and its rise to becoming one of the most powerful mafia families in America. 

Starring Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone and Al Pacino as his son Michael, The Godfather was lauded by both critics and audiences alike and spawned a pair of sequels: The Godfather II (1974) and The Godfather III (1990).

The Godfather franchise is heavily influenced by many real-life mobsters and events. Here are some of the true stories behind the films:

Real-life mobsters and entertainers served as inspiration for the characters

Vito Corleone was inspired by Frank Costello. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of The Godfather: 50th Anniversary Edition via the below link:

And you can read my Crime Beat column, Goodfellas Don’t Sue Goodfellas, which covers The Godfather, Goodfellas, organized crime and the Philly mob via the below link: 

A Nostalgic Visit To The Old South Philadelphia Quartermaster Compound

Accompanying my wife to Kindy’s on the old Quartermaster compound in South Philly to look for Christmas decorations last week, I experienced a sense of nostalgia as the outlet is housed in an warehouse in the eastern end of a long row of warehouses where I worked for more than 25 years.

I mentioned to a Kindy's employee that I had worked here years ago and he said a lot of customers also told him that they had worked at the Quartermaster in the old days.  

We walked up on a dock that was very familiar to me. To the west of Kindy’s was the warehouse area where for years we stored Defense Department files that were boxed and placed on wooden flatbeds with steel wheels while waiting to be placed on trucks bound for the Philadelphia Federal Records Center. 

I went to work at the Quartermaster in 1972 after serving on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. As a young clerk, I prepared those boxes of records, verifyed the contents were correct and proper, and loaded them on the flatbeds. I spent a good deal of time in this warehouse and on the dock. I later became the chief of the files unit and supervised the shipping operations. 

Further west of the Kindy’s outlet in the long building was an area that housed the Defense Personnel Support Center’s (DPSC) computer room. After serving as the chief of the files unit, I was promoted and worked in the Defense Contract Administration Services Region (DCASR) computer support unit attached to the DPSC computer room. (This was before personal computers and remote servers). 

The Quartermaster was then the second largest defense procurement center in the U.S., purchasing clothing, medicene, and other material for the American armed forces stationed across the world. The compound also housed a Defense Department command that oversaw defense contractors in the tri-state area who supplied the military with everything from cruise missiles to parachutes for special operators. 

The Quartermaster was closed in 1999 and the Defense Department commands moved to the Navy base in Northeast Philadelphia. The Defense Department sold the site to the City of Philadelphia, and the city resold the site to a commercial firm. 

The commercial firm recently announced that they plan a major redevelopment of the Quartermaster.

I retired from the Defense Department in 2007 and became a full time writer.

Prior to my visit to Kindy’s, I had returned to the Quartermaster to interview Philadelphia Police Department officials who now occupy a part of old building 6 that serves as the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center.     

You can read my interviews via the below links:

You can also read my history of the Quartermaster via the below link: 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

On This Day In History "Goodfellas" Mobsters Stole Millions From JFK Airport In Infamous 'Lufthansa Heist'

As notes, on this day in 1978 the New York criminal crew led by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke committed the infamous robbery of Lufthansa, which was the basis of Nicholos Pileggi’s book Wiseguy and Martin Scorsese’s classic crime film, Goodfellas.

On December 11, 1978 half a dozen masked robbers raided the Lufthansa Airlines cargo building at JFK Airport in New York, making off with more than $5 million in cash ($21 million in today's dollars) and almost $1 million in jewelry. To this day, the Lufthansa heist, as it is known, is considered one of the greatest in U.S. history.

The plan was dreamed up by Peter Gruenewald, a Lufthansa cargo worker at JFK Airport. Gruenewald knew that Lufthansa regularly flew large amounts of unmarked cash from Europe—the U.S. currency exchanged overseas by American tourists and servicemen—to JFK. 

Typically, this money would immediately be transferred to American banks via Brink’s trucks. However, delays sometimes caused the cash delivery to arrive after the last of the trucks had left for the day, which meant it was stored at the airport until the next business day—and vulnerable to theft.

Gruenewald took his plan to fellow cargo worker and friend Louis Werner, in the hopes of putting it in motion. Unfortunately for Gruenewald, Werner saw the robbery as an opportunity to get out from under a mountain of personal gambling debt and double-crossed his friend. 

He took Gruenewald's plan to a big-time bookmaker in the area, Martin Krugman, who took the idea to his buddy, infamous mobster-turned-movie-consultant Henry Hill. 

As depicted in the famous movie Goodfellas, Hill was part of a crew of gangsters run by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke. After years of earning money through nefarious deeds, Jimmy’s crew had become closely associated with the Lucchese crime family, and had amassed a solid reputation in the seedy world of organized crime. 

Burke and Hill took over the planning for the robbery. Jimmy’s crew was very familiar with JFK. Whenever they needed easy cash, the airport was an easy mark. The crew regularly hijacked trucks from JFK, often taking two or three trucks per week from there for quick money. Whether they were filled with televisions, clothes or food, they knew how to move merchandise to make extra cash. 

Note: The top photo shows the Robert’s Lounge gang with Henry Hill on the left (portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas), James Burke in the center (portrayed by Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeSimone (portrayed by Joe Pesci) to the right of Burke.

My Crime Fiction: Twas A Crime Before Christmas: My Interview With Santa Claus

As the Christmas season is here once again, I'd like to offer my short story, Twas a Crime Before Christmas, which originally appeared in The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2009.

Twas a Crime Before Christmas: My Interview with Santa Claus

By Paul Davis

As a crime reporter and columnist, I was compelled to look into a report of a burglary of an unemployed construction worker on Christmas Eve in South Philadelphia.

The burglar or burglars broke into the home early on the morning of the 24th. They stole the family’s TV and other household goods. They also took a dozen or so wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree that were intended for the family’s two children.

I interviewed the victim, who was so devastated by the burglary that he could hardly speak. I also spoke to a detective who said he presently had no leads on the case but he planned to keep working it, and I spoke to a local priest who told me that the church was collecting donations for the poor family.

Lastly, I spoke to a man of great wisdom and experience. The jolly old fella was kind enough to pause during his special night out to talk to me about crime.

I interviewed Santa Claus as he was packing up his sleigh and getting ready to head off on his magical trip, bringing toys and goodies to good children around the world.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard on his chin was white as snow. His eyes twinkled and his dimples were merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. He looked like a candidate for a heart attack.

And he smoked. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath (the Surgeon General would not approve). He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot (PETA would not approve) and his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot (Mrs. Santa would not approve). With a lumpy sack over his shoulder, he looked like a homeless person.

I asked Santa Claus if the public’s fear of crime had changed how he did his job.

“The increased use of car and home burglar alarms makes my journey tougher, I must say,” Santa said. “As you know, my miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer make such a clatter, they set off every car alarm on the block.”

Santa also said that home burglar alarms has made his surreptitious entry, via the fireplace, most difficult. When he slides down the chimney, he sets off alarms, which wakes the household and brings the police.

Santa went on to say that the alarms ruin the surprise for the children and he is often detained by the responding police officers, who demand identification and administer alcohol tests.

Fortunately, Santa looks like a right jolly old elf, so the police officers have to laugh, in spite of themselves. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head give the people who thought they were being robbed the knowledge that they had nothing to dread.

“I once had my sleigh and reindeer stolen while I was in a home setting up the toys, and I must admit that I paused to enjoy the milk and cookies that a child left me,” Santa said. “But with some kindly police officer’s help, I was able to recover the sleigh and reindeer rather quickly. You see my lead reindeer has a bright red nose and we were able to spot him from about three blocks away.”

Santa said his brush with crime made him understand why families were installing burglar alarms and why they were more concerned about a strange old fat man in red entering their home in the middle of the night. He told me that he was looking into some kind of security system for his sleigh as well.

I asked him about the burglary that occurred that morning in South Philly and he replied he was well aware of the sad incident.

“I plan to visit the house tonight on my rounds and with a little magic I’ll leave them some special gifts under their tree,” Santa explained. “I also did a little investigative work to find the crooks, as I have powers the police lack."

Santa said he discovered who the crooks were, and he tipped the police off. He also plans to leave the crooks lumps of coal in their stockings, which will be hung with care in the local jail.

“Don’t they know I’m watching?” Santa asked.” I know when they have been naughty or good. My surveillance techniques are finer than the FBI’s.”

“This should be a joyful time of year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” Santa said. “This should be a time of love, charity and good cheer.”

The interview concluded, he sprang to his sleigh and to his team gave a whistle and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Note: With apologies to Clement C. Moore and my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

© 2009.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Little Humor: His And Her Diary

Her Diary:

Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment on it.

Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn’t say much. I asked him what was wrong, and he said nothing. I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it.

On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly and kept driving. I can’t explain his behavior. I don’t know why he didn’t say, ‘I love you too.’

When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there quietly and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent.

Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes later, he came to bed. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep – I cried.

I don’t know what to do. I am almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster.

His Diary:

Motorcycle won’t start… can’t figure out why.

Monday, December 9, 2019

U.S. Navy Sailors Who Died In Line Of Duty At NAS Pensacola Shooting Showed Exceptional Herorism And Bravery

Having stood a good number of security watches on ships, boats and naval bases during my time in the U.S. Navy, my heart goes out to the sailors who died in the line of duty during the active shooting incident at NAS Pensacola.

The U.S. Navy News Service released the below statement:

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Three Sailors died during an active shooter incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Dec. 6.

The identities of the Sailors are:

- Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 23, from Enterprise, Alabama

- Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida

- Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, Student, Naval Aviation Schools Command, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia 

“The sorrow from the tragic event on NAS Pensacola will have a lasting impact on our installation and community,” said Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer, NAS Pensacola. “We feel the loss profoundly and grieve with the family and friends of the deceased.  The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil.  When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives. If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.”

The installation is now open to mission essential personnel only through the weekend.  Families who live on base will have access to the base and their residences.  The National Naval Aviation Museum is closed until further notice.  The Barrancas National Cemetery is closed to visitors until further notice.

An Emergency Family Assistance Center was established today and will reopen at the Fleet and Family Service Center (FFSC). FFSC will have counselors there to support witnesses, friends, family and base residents. They can be contacted at (850) 452-5990.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

NAS Pensacola Gunman 'Just Shot Through The Door' During Rampage, Survivor Says

Travis Fedschun at offers a piece on the shooter at NAS Pensacola.

The Saudi national who fatally shot three sailors at a naval air station in Florida last week unleashed a hail of bullets inside an aviation classroom building as those inside took cover in an assault that unfolded in just a matter of seconds, according to one of the eight people wounded in the attack.

The FBI’s Jacksonville office identified the shooter in a statement Saturday night as Mohammed Alshamrani (seen in the below photo), 21, and released a photo of him. Investigators said he was a 2nd Lt. in the Royal Saudi Air Force and was a student naval flight officer of Naval Aviation Schools Command.

Officials investigating the attack are still working to determine whether it was an act of terrorism, while President Trump said Saturday that the U.S. would “immediately” conduct a review of the training procedures and pledged to “get to the bottom” of what happened. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, December 7, 2019

On This Day In History The Imperial Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor

As notes, on this day in 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor.

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Smersh Spy-Killers Are Back In Business: The Russian Counterintelligence Unit That Inspired Ian Fleming Is Operating In Europe Under A New Name

In Ian Fleming’s 1957 classic spy novel, From Russia With Love, the Soviet agency SMERSH -
Smert Shpionam, or "Death to Spies" - sends a psychopathic killer named Donovan “Red” Grant to murder British intelligence officer James Bond and embarrass the British government. 

The plot is devised by SMERSH’s head of the planning department, chess master Colonel Kronsteen, known as “the Wizard of Ice,” and carried out by the head of SMERSH’s execution department, Colonel Rosa Klebb. (From Russia With Love is my favorite Ian Fleming novel and the best Bond film, although the 1963 film replaced SMERSH with the fictional international crime organization SPECTRE). 

SMERSH was a very real organization that assassinated enemies of the Soviet State.  

Ben Macintyre, seen in the above photo), the author of The Spy and the Traitor, A Spy Among Friends, Operation Mincemeat, and other fine nonfiction books on espionage, offers his take on a SMERSH-like Russian assassination group in his column at the London Times.

The Russian counterintelligence unit that inspired Ian Fleming is operating in Europe under a new name. 

In 1942, the military intelligence section of the Red Army set up a new unit to investigate traitors and deserters, liquidate enemy agents and enforce ideological conformity by destroying “anti-Soviet elements”.

The structure of the wartime espionage unit was deliberately opaque. It is still unclear quite how it was organised and how many officers it deployed. But the purpose was only too apparent in its name, coined by Stalin himself, which merged the Russian words smert meaning death and shpionam meaning spies: hence “Death to Spies”, or Smersh.

Around the same time Stalin changed the name of the military intelligence branch to the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU — the name by which it is still known today. Smersh was the hit squad of the new GRU.

If the idea of a ruthless spy-killing unit sounds like the stuff of fiction, that’s because it became precisely that. In the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming portrayed Smersh (director of operations: Rosa Klebb) as a massive counterintelligence network that more closely resembled the KGB. In the films, Smersh gave way to Spectre, an imaginary global terror organisation.

The real Smersh was remarkably effective, not just at wiping out anti-Soviet traitors (some of whom were undoubtedly innocent) but simultaneously instilling terror among potential enemies and enforcing obedience in the general population. Its mandate was to eliminate subversives and turncoats, initially inside the Soviet military but eventually anywhere in the world, including any of its own agents suspected of disloyalty, sabotage or desertion. 

It specialised in assassinations, known as “wetwork” (mokroye delo). Smersh was disbanded in 1946, by which time it had become semi-mythical: the brutal, inescapable enforcers and spy-hunters of the Red Army.

And now it is back, with a new name and a new remit but essentially the same purpose: to put the fear of God, and assassination, into Russia’s enemies, traitors and deserters.

According to intelligence sources, Unit 29155 is an elite sub-unit of GRU assassins that operated out of the Haute-Savoie in the French Alps, conducting a variety of wet jobs across Europe: notably the attempted poisoning in Salisbury of GRU officer-turned-MI6 spy Sergei Skripal, and the attempt to kill a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015. German intelligence officials also believe the Kremlin is implicated in the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, the Georgian-born Chechen fighter shot dead in a Berlin park last August, which has caused a diplomatic face-off between Russia and Germany.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times piece on Russian assassins via the below link:

And you can read Joseph Goulden’s Washington Times review of a book on the history of SMERSH via the below link: 

And you can read my Q&A with Ben Macintyre about his book on Ian Fleming and James Bond via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of actor Sean Connery as James Bond and Robert Shaw as Red Grant in the best fight scene in cinematic history in the film From Russia With Love. The below photos are from the film From Russia With Love:

Friday, December 6, 2019

My Crime Beat Column: Tis The Season - For Crime. Philadelphia Police Officer Offers Holiday Season Crime Prevention Tips

My Crime Beat column below appeared originally in the South Philadelphia American back in December of 1997:

Tis the season to be jolly, as the song goes. But for burglars, pickpockets, purse snatchers, shoplifters and con artists, it’s open season – on you.

December is a peak month for crime. Criminals like the holiday season, but not for any spiritual or sentimental reason. It’s simply a time of grand opportunity.

I paid a visit to the 9th Philadelphia Police District and spoke to Officer Val Izzo, a 26-year veteran who serves on District Captain Len Ditchkofsky’s staff. I asked what one could do to avoid becoming a crime victim during this otherwise jolly time.

“There are some unscrupulous people out there and they go to work every day, just like you and I, but their occupation is thievery,” Izzo said. “Our biggest problem is, by far, crimes against property – mostly automobiles. Captain Ditchkofsky has taken several major initiatives. We have targeted areas and placed thousands of brochures, which were donated to us at no cost to the taxpayer, on every car window.”

Izzo said on one side is a list of tips to prevent your car from being stolen and on the other side are tips to prevent your car from being broken into. Izzo said they have also placed stickers on parking meters that warn the people parking, many of whom are tourists, not to leave their camera bags, coats, and other personal articles in the car. Izzo said this is an invitation to a would-be-thief.

“We don’t want to alarm people, because this is a safe city, but we want precautions to be taken,” Izzo said.

Izzo said to avoid being a target you should have a plan.

“Don’t carry large sums of money and don’t go to a bank machine and take out large sums,” Izzo advised. “All banks have colored slips and the bad guy will find out which one is the withdrawal from savings, because people take more money out of savings than checking.”

Izzo said criminals with a “spotter” in the bank will see the yellow slip and know who to target. Izzo advises shoppers to use a credit card.

“Ladies carry their whole lives in those handbags,” Izzo said. “Try to avoid that. Carry a credit card, car keys and your make up bag in a fanny pack around your waist. They are hard to take off and it lets the bad guy know you are not an easy target.”

Izzo said most shoppers will park their car, shop, bring out gifts and put them in the trunk of their car, and go back to do another round of shopping, Izzo recommends that after you place your packages in the trunk, move your car to another location. If a criminal is watching, he’ll think you are going home.

In Center City Philadelphia most parking lots are secure, but you should ask the attendant if they have security when you return. Izzo said to travel on lighted streets with lots of traffic and familiarize yourself with the area. And don’t walk close to the building line; walk in the center of the sidewalk. 

“People ask me what they should carry for self-defense, like mace and pepper spray. These devices are only good if they are available to you and you are ready to use them,” Izzo said. “If you’re not, don’t buy them. The best weapon is your voice. You can scream loud and long.”

Izzo said that around the holiday season there is a rise in theft and pickpockets. A man should never keep his wallet in his back pocket. He should put the wallet in his front breast pocket.

“In a crowded store or elevator while carrying presents, someone may bump into you or drop something in front of you. Be aware that the bad guys work in teams, generally a male and a female, or two males. They try to distract you to get your wallet or belongings.”

Izzo said that while traveling on trains and buses, riders lay their packages on the seat next to them. Someone falls off of a seat and this gets your attention. You’ll discover later that something in your bag is gone. Izzo said to carry a bag that closes and keep it between your knees. If you’re driving, keep the window shut and the door locked. Don’t keep your handbag on the seat next to you because a criminal standing on a corner will see the handbag, smash the window and grab the bag. Place the handbag between your knees or underneath the floor mat. If you have to carry a handbag, carry it under your coat, Izzo advised.

Because of the large influx of visitors this time of year, hotels, offices and stores boost up their security, Izzo said. Izzo said the police know all the heads of security and they share information. 

“Captain Ditchkofsky attends the monthly meetings of the Buildings Owners and Managers’ Association (BOMA) of Philadelphia, “Izzo said. “We interact and talk about the different crimes and the security departments paly tapes that show us how criminals are using new techniques.

“The real crime fighters and crime prevention people are the average citizens. If you see something, call 911,” Izzo concluded.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Little Humor: The Teacher's Gift

It was the end of the school year, and a teacher was receiving gifts from her pupils.

The florist’s son handed her a gift. She shook it, held it overhead, and said, “I bet I know what it is. It is flowers.” 

“That’s right,” the boy said. “How did you know?” 

“Oh, just a wild guess,” she said.

The next pupil was the sweet shop owner’s daughter. 

The teacher held her gift overhead, shook it, and said, “I bet I can guess what it is. A box of sweets.” 

“That’s right, but how did you guess” asked the girl. 

“Oh, just a wild guess,” said the teacher.

The next gift was from the son of the liquor store owner. 

As the teacher held the package overhead, she saw that it was leaking. 

She touched a drop off the leakage with her finger and put it to her tongue. 

“Is it wine?” she asked. 

“No,” the boy replied, with some excitement. 

The teacher repeated the process, tasting a larger drop of the leakage. 

“Is it champagne?” she asked. 

“No,” the boy replied, laughing. 

The teacher took one more big taste before declaring, “I give up, what is it?” 

The boy replied, “It’s a puppy!” 

Note: The above photo is Cameron Diaz from Bad Teacher 

My Crime Fiction: 'The Cop Who Busted Santa'

As the Christmas season is here once again, I’d like to offer once again my short story, The Cop Who Busted Santa:

Some years back I wrote a short story called A Christmas Crime Story, which was about a mean, anti-Christmas cop who was later redeemed. 

You can read the story via the link at the bottom of the page.
The below short story, which appeared originally in American Crime Magazine, is a prequel to A Christmas Crime Story.   
The Cop Who Busted Santa

By Paul Davis

I truly love the Christmas season. I love holiday lights, Christmas music, colorful church services, and gatherings of family and friends. I also love walking through shopping districts and watching people buying presents and celebrating the joyous holiday, despite the cold weather.

While walking along East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia this Christmas season, I came across John Snyder, a retired Philadelphia police officer. His large, pan-shaped head was now nearly bald, and his stocky frame held a few more pounds since I last saw him some years ago. He still displayed his gruff demeanor, but there was also a shy smile on his face. 

John Snyder was not known for his smile.

Back in the 1990s I was a reporter and crime columnist for a local newspaper in Philadelphia and I had written several stories about Sergeant Snyder. Most of them were unflattering, but he never complained, and he still greeted me, albeit reluctantly, when I saw him at the 3rd police district in South Philly or at cop bars.

About that time Sergeant John Snyder became famous as “The Cop Who Busted Santa.” 

On Christmas Eve of that year, while patrolling the 3rd district in South Philadelphia, Snyder pulled over a driver who had performed what is known locally as “the South Philly Roll,” which is a deliberate failure to fully stop at a stop sign or traffic light. 

Walking up to the driver’s car window, Snyder was not amused by the driver, who was dressed as Santa Claus with a huge false white beard. He greeted Snyder with a hearty, but somewhat slurred, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas.”

“You ran that stop sign back there,” Snyder said in his low, gruff voice that more than one cop called his “bark.” 

George Jankowski, the man dressed as Santa, laughed loudly and his huge belly, which was his own and not costume stuffing, shook in the front car seat. 

“Oh, really,” Jankowski replied. “Sorry about that officer, but I’m on my way to an orphanage, here in my modern-day sleigh, to deliver toys for the poor, little orphans.”

“It’s sergeant, not officer, and there’s no excuse for running a stop sign,” Snyder declared. “Have you been drinking? Get out of the car.”

Janlowski cursed and struggled to get out of the car. 

“I’ve had a few, yeah, you know, it’s Christmas Eve.”

Snyder grabbed Jankowski and twirled him around and placed the man’s white gloves on the patrol car. He kicked his legs apart.

As a good number of people were out on the street that night, coming in and out of stores, bars and restaurants, a crowd gathered quickly and watched Snyder manhandle and search the man dressed as Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.

The crowd was aghast. One bystander full of holiday spirit – both faith-based and liquid – called out to Snyder, “Hey Officer Grinch! Leave Santa alone.”

Others began to complain as well and several children began to cry. One man walked out into the street towards Snyder to reason with him. 

“Back off!” Snyder commanded. “Or I’ll place you under arrest too. I’ll arrest all of you people,” he barked to the crowd.

Snyder handcuffed Jankowski and squeezed the big man into the backseat of his patrol car. As Snyder drove off, he heard one bystander say sarcastically, "And a Merry, Merry Christmas to you as well." 

If this event had happened these days, several people would have recorded the arrest on their cell phone and uploaded the video to the Internet. And the video would have gone viral, as they say, with millions of people viewing it.

As it were, several outraged people contacted the police and complained, and more than one witness contacted the press. The 6 o’clock TV news stations all ran the story with on-air interviews with the angry witnesses to the arrest. 

The daily newspaper followed up with the story on the front page and the story of the arrest of Santa on Christmas Eve appeared in newspapers and on TV and radio across the country on Christmas Day. The national press mocked Philadelphia and they all brought up an earlier story of Philadelphia sports fans who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs at a ball field. 

“So much for Philadelphia being the “City of Brotherly Love,” one national TV newscaster commented dryly. 

The TV 6 o’clock news reports on the arrests prompted a series of phone calls from the mayor, the police commissioner, a deputy police commissioner, a chief inspector, an inspector, and finally the 3rd district’s captain. 

The captain drove to the station from his home and released Jankowski, who was being held over for arraignment. The captain, along with the lieutenant, chewed out Snyder, but the sergeant held his ground and defended his actions. 

The captain reminded Snyder of his actions on the previous Christmas Eve. 

“You locked up a bunch of kids for just being merry, remember? And you locked up those newlywed tourists who only wanted you to take their picture,” the captain said. “What are you, a one-man Christmas joy-killer?”   

Later that evening, Jankowski went on TV and told his story. He complained of police abuse and false arrest and said he was going to sue the city. He also said that while in police custody, he had to call his son and tell him to go and pick up the car, which had been towed on Snyder's orders, as the car had the presents for the orphaned children. 

Jankowski, dressed again as Santa, delivered the toys to the Catholic Orphanage on Christmas Day. He was accompanied by reporters and the story was carried widely across the nation as a positive story on Christmas.    

The day after Christmas Jack Ferrari, a 3rd district cop that I had gone out on a ride-along with and wrote about in my column, called and invited me to meet him at the Penrose, a South Philly diner.

He was on his lunch break with his partner in a booth and I slid in and joined them. 

Ferrari slipped me a piece of paper that had Jankowski’s name and phone number on it. The note also had Snyder’s phone number on it. I placed the note in my jacket pocket. 

Ferrari’s partner, an officer named Bill Hanson, said Snyder was a son of a bitch. But don't use my name, he added.  

“He’s a cheap and miserable bastard,” Hanson continued. “No wonder his wife kicked him out and even his kids won’t speak to him. And he wears boxing gloves at the bar.”


“He wears boxing gloves just so he can’t reach into his pocket and take out money to buy a guy a drink,” Hanson said. “OK, not really, but I’ve never seen him buy anyone a drink.”  

Ferrari noted, to be fair, that Snyder also never took a drink when other people were buying. He simply stood alone at the bar and nursed a beer or two.  

“Snyder is a tough sergeant, but when there is a shooting or altercation involving his officers, Snyder dives right in,” Ferrari said. “He also makes sure that higher-ups never mess with his guys. He took the heat for us many times,” Ferrari said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Hanson agreed. 

I left the diner and called Jankowski. He was still full of rage and he bent my ear over the phone for an hour. I also called Snyder to get his side, but he refused to talk about the incident.  
“No comment,” he barked over the phone.

I felt bad for Snyder, as he was one of those sad people who only felt sorrow and bitterness on Christmas. I hoped that he would someday discover true happiness, especially at Christmas. 

I published my “The Cop Who Busted Santa” column in the local paper later that week.

This incident was unfortunate, but it led to some positive actions. The Catholic orphanage received a lot of publicity and donations poured in. Jankowski sued the City of Philadelphia and received a substantial settlement, which he used to establish a Christmas charity fund.  

The incident also united a good number of people in their critical response to the well-publicized arrest of Santa. And, lo and behold, they also began to speak to each other and to their children of the true meaning of Christmas; joy, love, charity, and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. 
And yes, I got a column out of it.

© Paul Davis 2018. 

You can read A Christmas Crime Story via the below link: 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

DEA Take Down Of Drug Lord Pablo Escobar: My Washington Times Review of 'Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar'

The Washington Times ran my review of Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar.

The general public first became aware of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena when they were portrayed by actors in the Netflix series, “Narcos.”

The first two seasons of the outstanding drama series was about the takedown of the world’s most wanted criminal in the 1990s, Pablo Escobar.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Pablo Escobar was the world’s most wealthy and powerful criminal. He was the head of the Medellin Cartel, the leading drug cartel in Colombia. He was a vicious, brutal, mass murderer. He made millions by flooding America and the world with cocaine, and he oversaw a reign of terror in Colombia.

He had his men plant a bomb aboard an airliner that killed every passenger on board. He backed the M-19 guerrillas that attacked the Palace of Justice in Bogota, in which judges, soldiers and innocents were killed. He had his men plant car bombs around the country that killed and injured many innocent people. He had his hit men, called “sicarios,” assassinate thousands of criminal rivals, police officers, soldiers, journalists and politicians.

In “Manhunters,” retired DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena tell of their role in the hunt, capture and death of Pablo Escobar. In the first part of the book, the two DEA agents write of their careers and adventures prior to being assigned to Colombia. Mr. Murphy was assigned to Miami, a hotbed of drug traffickers and murders, and Mr. Pena was assigned to Texas on the dangerous Mexican border.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Speaking To Steve Murphy And Javier Pena, The Two DEA Agents Who Helped Take Down Drug Lord Pablo Escobar

I interviewed Steve Murphy and Javier Pena today. 

Steve Murphy and Javier Pena are the two DEA Special Agents who helped takedown the brutal drug lord and mass murderer Pablo Escobar in Colombia. 

The two retired agents were portrayed in the Netflix drama series Narcos.  

My Q&A with Javier Pena (seen in the above photo on the left) and Steve Murphy (seen in the above photo on the right) will appear in an upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine. 

I’ll post the Q&A here when the magazine comes out. 

My review of their book, Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar, will be appear in the Washington Times tomorrow.