Police widow's ugly run-in
December 1, 2003
It was just an insensitive verbal confrontation. But it's getting uglier. Neither the Police Department nor the police union will discuss it.
According to several accounts, Lori Gunn, whose husband, Bill, was shot in the head in the line of duty in 1989 and lingered for nearly four years in a coma, was driving to the New York Hilton Hotel in midtown on Nov. 21 with Pat Boesch, another police line-of-duty widow, for the bomb squad's 100th anniversary dinner.
When Gunn asked a traffic officer for the nearest precinct to park in, the officer ticketed her for not wearing her seat belt. Gunn protested. The officer's partner, identified only as "Officer Martin," walked to Gunn's car.
Gunn identified herself as an LOD widow - a status described by Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesman Al O'Leary as "the most cherished and revered of anybody in the department, and they are always on our minds."
Words were exchanged between Gunn and the traffic officers. Supervisors were notified.
According to e-mails received by Newsday, Gunn called Martin "a disgrace to the uniform."
"At least I am alive to be a disgrace in this uniform," Martin allegedly said.
Police at first refused to acknowledge the incident, then said it was under investigation. Chief of Department Joe Esposito was said to be especially disturbed. He did not return a call to his office Friday. Gunn could not be reach for comment.
A police official told Newsday the situation could become difficult for both traffic officers, even if they are transferred. "Unless the situation is resolved quickly, the story will follow them around," he said.
In a department where race is never far from the surface, there is one more part to this that could signal more ugliness. At least one e-mailer noted that both traffic officers are black females. Gunn is white.
Another e-mail message about the incident signed "Lori," but whose identity could not be independently confirmed, read as follows: "The holiday times are very difficult for us, especially for myself. Bill died on Thanksgiving Day and November is a hard month for us to get through. Every time I hear Officer Martin's words echo in my heart, I can't help but reflect on the four most horrific years that Billy endured in his coma."
The e-mail closed with this line: "Pat and I would like to thank everyone for their support and kind words. Maybe I am looking through rose-colored glasses but I have faith in the top brass to do the right thing. We will always think of everyone on the NYPD as our extended family [with two exceptions, of course!!]."
Donovan was the former chief of staff to Molinari. Reyes was Molinari's bodyguard and driver for seven years when Molinari served as borough president.
Reyes continued driving for Molinari into April 2002, even after Molinari left office. Only after Newsday noted that Reyes was standing next to Molinari at the trial of ex-officer Charles Schwarz in federal court in Brooklyn, did Police Commissioner Ray Kelly cancel Molinari's so-called "protection."
Yes, even Kelly was indebted to Molinari. In 1993, it was Molinari who arranged Kelly's last-ditch interview with mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani as Kelly, during his first turn as top cop, sought unsuccessfully to keep his job.
Reyes, meanwhile, in 2001 was the man in the middle of the arrest of Terrence Hunter, a black city worker whose letter to Molinari protesting the closing of a youth center supposedly terrified Molinari.
Sgt. Joseph Simonetti, of the Intelligence Division's Threat Assessment Unit, said he only acted to have Hunter arrested after a phone conversation with Reyes.
After Kelly canceled Molinari's detail, Reyes was posted to the Children's Advocacy Center in Staten Island, an interesting assignment for a first-grade detective. Perhaps because he had so little to do, he began playing golf with Donovan. During Donovan's campaign for district attorney, Reyes became his driver, though whether this was on police or his own time - a la Bernard Kerik and Giuliani - is unknown.
Meanwhile, outgoing district attorney William Murphy says Mike DiBenedetto and Wilson Varella, two detectives who were assigned to Giuliani even after the former mayor left office, are working out "just fine" in the district attorney's office.
© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.