Gunning it in Central Park

It was around the early 1970's, and New York City was experiencing a wave of robbery—homicides of taxi drivers. A team of 3 male blacks was killing cab drivers after forcing them to drive to Harlem neighborhoods and taking their cash.

Since I was a member of a plainclothes undercover unit, I was assigned to drive a cab during the evening hours in Manhattan. Anyone who has driven in that hustling, bustling borough knows it takes the skill and daring of an Evel Knievel—wannabe to maneuver through the frenzied traffic without having your car turned into scrap metal. The driving dexterity I had accumulated in countless car chases would surely be put to the test as a cab driver in the Big Apple.

The plan was to publicize the fact that off duty cops were acting as decoys, therefore, potential thugs would be dissuaded from preying on cabbies. In order for the plan to work, we had to actually be taxi drivers each night, which meant picking up fares, driving them to their destinations and keeping a record of the money, and the tips. Each night, when I picked up my cab, I would head for the busiest streets of midtown Manhattan, with the 'unoccupied' light on the roof.

My .38 cal. Smith and Wesson, snub—nosed pistol was placed between my legs with the handle just barely visible and easily accessible. When I had a passenger in back of me (this was before they installed the bulletproof glass separators in cabs), I would drive with my left hand while resting my right hand on the stock of the revolver.

I had worked for several nights without incident, moving people from uptown to downtown and all areas in between. Then, one night, I was flagged down by 3 blacks guys waving their hands and whistling on the opposite side of a wide avenue. I did the usual taxi driver stunt of cutting across traffic and nearly causing several collisions with fist—waving horn—honking drivers.

The three guys in their mid—twenties jumped in behind me and one of them barked, 'A hundred—twenty—fifth Street and Amsterdam Avenue,' a location smack dab in the middle of Harlem. 'Uh oh,' I thought, as I turned down the flag on the meter and pulled back into the traffic while grasping the stock of my weapon and steering with one hand.

When I began to drive toward 8th Avenue, planning to stay on crowded streets all the way uptown, one of my passengers said, 'Cut through the park, it'll be faster that way.' Although he was correct, I didn't want to be driving along the multi—curved, often deserted roadways of Central Park about midnight, with 3 possible killers sitting behind me.

The grip on my gun tightened as I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline course through my veins. Peering at the dimly lit, grim—faced reflections in my rearview mirror gave me a sense of impending doom. 'How did I get myself into such a vulnerable position,' I asked myself.

'Yes, I have my hand on a loaded gun, but they may have 3 cannons pointing at me right now, and they're in back of me.' After taking a deep breath and bracing myself for the worst, I turned into the 850—acre forest created by Frederick Law Olmstead out of the raw  landscape Peter Minuet conned the native Indians into selling for $24 worth of beads and trinkets.

Realizing it was too late to make any adjustments to my situation, I decided that the best defense is a good offense, so I pressed down on the accelerator and hit those curves at 60 plus miles per hour. I figured it would be tougher for them to get a good aim at the back of my head if they were slamming into each other from right to left and back again as I speedily negotiated each hairpin turn with one hand, while making permanent impressions in the handle of my gun with the other.

Suddenly, from the rear seats, I heard, 'Man, look at this cat go! We got ourselves a regular wheel man here.' They continued to rave about my one—handed dexterity, never aware that my other hand was occupied, and that my driving 'skill' was motivated by fear. I exited the park amid pats on the shoulder from my cheering section, who told me it was the most exciting ride they had ever experienced.

When I dropped them off, I was able to bring my pulse down a bit, but it spiked again when I noticed they had given me the largest tip since I started driving a cab.

Incidentally, the stickup team was eventually captured after a set of fingerprints found on a taxi door was matched to one of them. No, they were not the same guys who careened through Central Park with me.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

It was around the early 1970's, and New York City was experiencing a wave of robbery—homicides of taxi drivers. A team of 3 male blacks was killing cab drivers after forcing them to drive to Harlem neighborhoods and taking their cash.

Since I was a member of a plainclothes undercover unit, I was assigned to drive a cab during the evening hours in Manhattan. Anyone who has driven in that hustling, bustling borough knows it takes the skill and daring of an Evel Knievel—wannabe to maneuver through the frenzied traffic without having your car turned into scrap metal. The driving dexterity I had accumulated in countless car chases would surely be put to the test as a cab driver in the Big Apple.

The plan was to publicize the fact that off duty cops were acting as decoys, therefore, potential thugs would be dissuaded from preying on cabbies. In order for the plan to work, we had to actually be taxi drivers each night, which meant picking up fares, driving them to their destinations and keeping a record of the money, and the tips. Each night, when I picked up my cab, I would head for the busiest streets of midtown Manhattan, with the 'unoccupied' light on the roof.

My .38 cal. Smith and Wesson, snub—nosed pistol was placed between my legs with the handle just barely visible and easily accessible. When I had a passenger in back of me (this was before they installed the bulletproof glass separators in cabs), I would drive with my left hand while resting my right hand on the stock of the revolver.

I had worked for several nights without incident, moving people from uptown to downtown and all areas in between. Then, one night, I was flagged down by 3 blacks guys waving their hands and whistling on the opposite side of a wide avenue. I did the usual taxi driver stunt of cutting across traffic and nearly causing several collisions with fist—waving horn—honking drivers.

The three guys in their mid—twenties jumped in behind me and one of them barked, 'A hundred—twenty—fifth Street and Amsterdam Avenue,' a location smack dab in the middle of Harlem. 'Uh oh,' I thought, as I turned down the flag on the meter and pulled back into the traffic while grasping the stock of my weapon and steering with one hand.

When I began to drive toward 8th Avenue, planning to stay on crowded streets all the way uptown, one of my passengers said, 'Cut through the park, it'll be faster that way.' Although he was correct, I didn't want to be driving along the multi—curved, often deserted roadways of Central Park about midnight, with 3 possible killers sitting behind me.

The grip on my gun tightened as I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline course through my veins. Peering at the dimly lit, grim—faced reflections in my rearview mirror gave me a sense of impending doom. 'How did I get myself into such a vulnerable position,' I asked myself.

'Yes, I have my hand on a loaded gun, but they may have 3 cannons pointing at me right now, and they're in back of me.' After taking a deep breath and bracing myself for the worst, I turned into the 850—acre forest created by Frederick Law Olmstead out of the raw  landscape Peter Minuet conned the native Indians into selling for $24 worth of beads and trinkets.

Realizing it was too late to make any adjustments to my situation, I decided that the best defense is a good offense, so I pressed down on the accelerator and hit those curves at 60 plus miles per hour. I figured it would be tougher for them to get a good aim at the back of my head if they were slamming into each other from right to left and back again as I speedily negotiated each hairpin turn with one hand, while making permanent impressions in the handle of my gun with the other.

Suddenly, from the rear seats, I heard, 'Man, look at this cat go! We got ourselves a regular wheel man here.' They continued to rave about my one—handed dexterity, never aware that my other hand was occupied, and that my driving 'skill' was motivated by fear. I exited the park amid pats on the shoulder from my cheering section, who told me it was the most exciting ride they had ever experienced.

When I dropped them off, I was able to bring my pulse down a bit, but it spiked again when I noticed they had given me the largest tip since I started driving a cab.

Incidentally, the stickup team was eventually captured after a set of fingerprints found on a taxi door was matched to one of them. No, they were not the same guys who careened through Central Park with me.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com