And, here I was, as recommended, at the Gidney Avenue basketball courts. It was just before 7:30 PM, and the earlier game was ongoing. But a rather large crowd had already gathered for this less hyped opening act.
I glanced around and took in the crowded bleachers. From my position, on the street, I could easily tell it was a standing room only crowd already.
I also noticed that I was, as usual in these environs, a minority. But I never felt particularly self-conscious or out of place in the ‘Burgh. Too many years spent within the community. Too many folks that I knew and felt comfortable around. Nah, this always felt like home to me; sweltering hot summer day, on a sizzling patch of asphalt in the ‘hood.
But, as usual, my attire certainly didn’t help me “blend.” Ever since I’d joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in early 1991, after fulfilling my military commitment as a U.S. Army Light Infantry Officer, I had endeavored to represent the values and dictates hammered into me by the Hoover era Agents that I had cut my teeth under. “Never embarrass the Bureau, Jimmy,” they’d warn. And, then, “Don’t ever forget what the F.B.I. stands for and what it means to so many, kid. You are standing on the shoulders of giants who built the world’s premier law enforcement agency. Take that responsibility seriously.”
And so I did.
I also had to presume that to violate these edicts would result in immediate dismissal from the ranks of the world’s top police organization. Ergo, I followed the code of conduct religiously; and for me, it meant dressing the part.
And as the leader of the FBI Office responsible for the City of Newburgh, I knew where my focus needed to be.
And that focus was now trained squarely across the street at the gang leader who was ominously staring me down.
“00” was the leader of a violent national street gang that had subsumed fully one-half of the territory belonging to the city of Newburgh. As the patriarch of the Newburgh BLOODS, he oversaw a ruthless crime syndicate that had metastasized sometime during the early aughts, and was currently gripped in a violent existential struggle with a competing Newburgh street gang, the Latin Kings. And as much as the FBI had its rules and regulations, so too did the BLOODS and Latin Kings. The FBI’s rules were contained within written treatises known as the Manual of Investigative Operations and Guidelines (MIOG), the Attorney General’s Guidelines, and our nation’s laws themselves. For the violent street gangs terrorizing Newburgh, New York during the early 2000’s there was an expected adherence and conformity to their own prescribed manifestos or rules governing conduct.
These rules regulated where and how the gangs could operate. And they governed what gang members could wear…to include color selection. For the Latin Kings, everything was black and gold. And for the Newburgh BLOODS, their world was colored in but a monochromatic display of red.
And, much as I adhered to tradition, obediently resplendent in the old-school Bureau dress code, so too did “00” hew to the styles popular amongst the modern-day street gang set. Typical loose, baggy, sagging jeans that defied gravity by remaining expertly cinched just below his buttocks, exposing a pair of colorful plaid boxer shorts. It also included a rather tight fitting “guinea tee” — the white, ribbed cotton t-shirt also known as a “wife beater.”
Boykin’s rippling physique was a sight to behold. He had muscles on top of his muscles, and he seemingly enjoyed the wondrous stares from young grade-schoolers who passed him now on Chambers Street, as they headed to the hoops tourney. His cartoonishly overdeveloped musculature was the result of his recent stint in the state penitentiary. “00” had spent those long months stewing in lockup. The time allowed him to plot, and to maniacally work out in his cell. It also afforded him opportunities to bring more young acolytes into the BLOODS gang, and then to stew and plot some more…
So, as I slowly ambled towards the entry point to the outdoor courts, the assembled group of gang lieutenants that surrounded Boykin glared menacingly, almost tauntingly, in my direction, the only thing separating us was the width of Gidney Avenue. Without my suit jacket on, they could tell I was unarmed. From their position, across the street from the hotly contested neighborhood basketball tourney that had drawn some one-thousand spectators, the gangsters watched me closely. Their gathering drew scant attention. Everyone in the neighborhood knew “00.” Everyone in the neighborhood also knew it to be wholly imprudent to stare in the direction of the Newburgh BLOODS street gang whenever and wherever they elected to set up shop.
I slammed the car door shut, engaged the car’s alarm system, leaving my Bu-steed at the corner of Gidney Avenue and Liberty Street, where I could have constant eyes on my vehicle, and casually strode up to the open gate entrance to the Gidney courts. This was the place where countless Newburgh basketball hopefuls had honed their craft. And countless hoops legends had honed their craft and earned their reputations. No quarter asked. None given. Going back to the 1970’s, it had served as a training ground for the steady stream of otherworldly Newburgh basketball talent that seemed to spring eternal, up from humble beginnings in the tiny upstate New York community of some 29,000 inhabitants.
But the Gidney courts also served as a cemetery of sorts, for those whose dreams were dashed by a lack of size or hoops skills…or by the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and ending up dead, the result of a gang beef, or for the unpardonable sin of staring at someone for one beat too long. Or, as in the the case of innocent young Jeffrey Zachary, a case of mistaken identity.
(continued on next page)