Anemone’s funeral furor
November 4, 1996
A major political fund-raiser and crony of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir was dressed down big time by Chief of Department Louis Anemone at a recent police funeral.
After the dressing-down, at the Oct. 23 funeral of Lt. Federico Narvaez in Rego Park, 58-year-old Howard Koeppel, the owner of a Queens car dealership, left the church in tears. He then canceled his plane ticket to the International Association of Police Chiefs conference in Phoenix, to which Safir had invited him, because Anemone was attending.
"I don't plan to go to any police events as long as he is with the Police Department," said Koeppel, whom Safir recently appointed as an honorary commissioner. "He's a wacko. I am afraid of him."
What angered Anemone - the department's top uniformed officer and a Giuliani favorite, known for his 'round-the-clock kick-butt tactics and his support of super-aggressive officers (including Francis X. Livoti, recently acquitted of choking a Bronx man to death) - is that Koeppel violated department protocol at Narvaez' funeral by sitting in the first row.
"I was attending my first police funeral since Commissioner Safir appointed me an honorary commissioner," said Koeppel, who donated a Pathfinder vehicle to the NYPD. "The first row was occupied by the mayor, Commissioner Safir, First Deputy Tosano Simonetti and Attorney General Dennis Vacco. I sat down next to Vacco. When Anemone arrived, he sat on my other side.
"I've been to every fire department funeral," said Koeppel. "I stay with the mayor and the fire commissioner. I didn't do anything different here. Maybe he resented the fact that I walked into the church before he did. But after the funeral he let me have it."
The incident was witnessed by city Public Advocate Mark Green. "It's true that as we were solemnly exiting the church, Chief Anemone was furiously dressing down Koeppel for some apparent protocol violation," he said.
"I've never been spoken to like that in my life, including my three years in the Army. I wouldn't speak to my dog the way he spoke to me," said Koeppel, who is close enough to Giuliani that the mayor rushed to his car dealership last February when a Russian immigrant was shot dead there by her ex-boyfriend.
The case drew citywide attention when Giuliani then attacked Criminal Court Judge Lorin Duckman for having released the boyfriend on bail.
Of the incident at the church, Koeppel said: "I can't repeat what he said. I couldn't repeat those words. He said he would knock my . . . head off. He was like a mad dog. I still can't understand what it was about. Maybe it was because I was Jewish. I don't even think I could accept his apology."
Those who know Anemone - many in the department abhor his Patton-like aggressiveness and insensitivity - say he has no prejudices. "He's an equal-opportunity abuser," says a ranking Hispanic officer. Says a white chief Anemone tangled with: "He's equally unpleasant to everyone."
Koeppel said he's discussed the incident with Safir. "Safir said Anemone was extremely upset by Narvaez' death He was shot by a career felon and leaves behind a wife and 6-year-old daughter , but Safir said what Anemone did was inexcusable," Koeppel reported. "Safir said he would handle it. I am not going to badger him. I just told him how I felt. I couldn't understand how a man like that could be a four-star chief and act like that. If I talked to him that way, I would get arrested or get punched in the mouth."
Anemone was said to be traveling and unreachable. NYPD and City Hall officials were mum.
A department official said he recalled Koeppel speaking to Giuliani after the funeral. "I saw him talking to the mayor with tears in his eyes. I thought he was shaken by the emotions of the funeral. Then I heard it was Anemone who did this to him."
Marilyn Sleeps In. Having canceled his trip to Phoenix for the International Association of Police Chiefs conference to attend the Yankees parade, Safir winged off to the Dominican Republic yesterday to meet its president. His spokeswoman, Marilyn Mode, who also canceled her Phoenix reservation at the last moment, said she's staying home.
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.