On December 20, 1977, my wife and I were hosting a small gathering at our apartment in Albany, NY, before heading him to Long Island for Christmas.
I made sure to invite a law school classmate (who was Jewish) who had taken great offense at remarks I’d made about Bob Dylan’s politics, calling me a bigot. The context was a go-to law school bar where libations were flowing freely. By now, all that was water under the bridge.
The joyous occasion was interrupted by a surprise call from my mother. She was barely able to get the words out between quiet moans. “Ray’s…dead”.
This was one of those instances where you go into a kind of fog. I was in shock, I think I asked “how”?
“He was murdered”.
My father was a member of the NYPD for 23 years until he had a heart attack on duty. Back when he was a detective, his partner was Tommy Grosso. We’d visit the Grossos and their close friends and next door neighbors, the Gallos, in “the country” – Levittown, Long Island. Ray Gallo was also a NYPD detective.
Eventually we moved next door to the Gallos – so there we were, three detectives and their families in a row on Tanners Lane, all refugees of the Bronx.
Suffice to say we were close, as close as family.
I still have the scar on my wrist that resulted from my putting my fist through the plaster wall after hanging up with Mom.
We headed home immediately, and as we got closer to the city we heard the tragedy reported from our van’s radio on the NYC news stations.
Ray’s oldest child, Glenn, has been one of my best friends since those visits from the Bronx to Tanners lane. As were the Grosso kids.
Glenn and his mother, St. Matthew’s Church, Dix Hills, NY
William Ross Wakefield was a no-account scumbag thief, bank robber, and murderer.
On December 20, 1977, he was being pursued by Brooklyn Detectives Vito Navarra and Joseph Ebert. AT 1:00 p.m., they had just secured arrest warrants for two counts of bank robbery and one murder at the Criminal Courts Building. One of the robberies involved the unprovoked murder of an assistant bank manager, Jeffrey Bernstein of Seaford, Long Island, the week before.
Cop shooter / murderer Wakefield
(Depending on which press accounts you credit, Wakefield was wanted either for nine other bank robberies and three murders or seven other bank robberies.)
At just about that time Ray Gallo, now a retired cop, had a fender bender on Flatbush Avenue, 15 minutes from that same Courthouse, in his Con Ed car, pursuant to his new career.
Ray started to walk the half block to his old Precinct, the 78th, to report the accident. Then a sector car pulled up to investigate. Other cops milled around.
Murdering scumbag Wakefield knew he was wanted, and ambushed Ray and a young officer seated in his patrol car with whom he was speaking, Larry Bromm.
Ray was killed instantly, Bromm was paralyzed for life, the pursuing homicide detectives minutes behind Wakefield.
A frenetic gunfight up Flatbush Avenue ensued, Wakefield ducking behind cars, crossing the street and running in and out of storefronts.
In the end, two more cops – Fred Connor and James Stewart – were wounded. And Wakefield lay dead.
It was reported that he was a Black Muslim with a common law wife and three children living in cold water flat with no electricity. His brother Theodore was also a Muslim – a “minister” on parole for murder. Model citizens like Muhammed Ali.
More to come.