Thursday, July 12, 2018




(Thursday July 12, 2018 Central Park, NYC) For anyone On The Job 32 years ago, this day is forever seared in our memories.  Certain events hold greater significance in our  individual and institutional memories than others for no reason beyond the shock value, the sheer murderous reckless audacity that defines it. The commemoration of one such heinous crime is marked on this day.


The trauma surgeons working in Bellevue Hospital 32 years ago on this day were all well-seasoned, intimately familiar with the human wreckage and carnage hustled into their Emergency Room on a ceaseless basis.  They were experienced in their particular art and science of working aggressively on severely injured, wounded bodies in their efforts to stave off death. Their bloodied patients came from motor vehicle accidents, construction site injuries, all and any manor of chance in our City including violence; these surgeons knew how to handle stab and gunshot wounds as well, and likely better than, any other trauma teams in the country.  They worked with a tunnel-visioned focus fully engaged in the wrecked body that laid before them be that body Black or White, Cop or criminal.  Thirty-two years ago today they received a mortally wounded 29-year-old NYPD Officer who’d been shot at “point blank” range three times by a 15 year old robbery suspect in Central Park.

Officer McDonald had immediately been transported to Metropolitan Hospital and quickly the doctors there realized if McDonald was to have a chance at survival he needed to be downtown in Bellevue, at the time the premier trauma center in the City. He sustained grave injuries from the three bullets that struck him; the first bullet hit him in the head, above his eye; the second hit his throat and caused him to have a speaking disability; and the third shattered his spine, paralyzing him from the neck down and leaving him quadriplegic and in need of a ventilator. Yes, the Bellevue team saved the life of the third generation NYPD Officer and throughout the years since until his death in 2017 he dedicated his energies as a living example of forgiveness and grace, of inherent spiritual strength, and as a staunch advocate for these very same characteristics.  Despite all he’d endured and what he physically lived with on a daily basis, Steven McDonald remained optimistic and persistent. 


It was a relatively not unpleasant day for a NYC July, it was just another Saturday for everyone.  Working on an “Anti-Crime Unit” detail, PO McDonald and his partner, Sgt. Peter King, approached three young Black teens because they fit the basic descriptions of suspects in a rash of Central Park muggings, robberies, and bike thefts.  In plain cloths with his NYPD shield pinned to his belt and a department radio in his hand he asked one of the three, Shavod “Buddha” Jones, to allow him to see what was in the sock Jones was holding in his left hand.  In a nanosecond Jones pulled a gun from the sock and shot McDonald three times.  Before the gunshot echoes had faded McDonald was in a fight for his life and within an hour the three young assailants were in custody.  McDonald’s life hung in the balance as did the fate of Jones and his accomplices.  Jones, as the shooter, had the most to lose.  Though a 15-year-old juvenile he would be charged with Capital Murder of a Police Officer.  As his fate would play out he was sentenced to 10 years for attempted murder serving just a little over eight and a half years before being paroled in 1995.  Within four days of his release he was killed in a motorcycle accident in The Bronx. Yes, to this day MOS working and retired still view his death as divine retribution, as cosmic justice, Karma.  Yet McDonald never saw it that way and it is here, embedded in the Soul within his paralyzed body that his truest Courage and Grace is most evident.  McDonald forgave Jones and had even corresponded with him and his family for a brief time.


It is likely that each of us at some time or another, a random idle moment, a dark interlude on a subway that has for some reason stopped between stations, had reflective thoughts about not only the nature of our Jobs, but the primal very tangible realities of the life and death consequences that accompany each of us to work every day.  Perhaps in these idle moments we’ve allowed our thoughts to run to the freely speculative, to engage in the deeply personal exercise of what we are capable of and not capable of.  Steven McDonald’s life has been the impetus for shifting more than a handful of minds into that introspective mode.  Could I forgive the villain that confined me to a wheelchair for life?  Would I be able to carry on in the face of immeasurable adversity?  Could my relationship, if any pre-existed, with God remain intact after being dealt such a monumental assault of mind and Spirit, of Body and Soul?  We likely don’t share these wanderings with others and, if we do, we often will distance our inner truths to the more generic, removed hypotheticals so as not to reveal something about ourselves. 

Steven McDonald became a global advocate for forgiveness and reconciliation.  From appearances at a roll call in Brooklyn North to Norther Ireland he traveled spreading his message.  From South Africa to the South Bronx he met with local, national and international figures, prominent leaders from the Pope John Paul II to Nelson Mandela as well as Catholic Bishops and Cardinals and clerics of all orientation the world over.  He became a truly global advocate for forgiveness and peace. 


It was a bit warmer at this small grass covered ridge in Central Park than it was 32 years ago today but, aside from the weather not much in the Park has changed.  What has changed has been City-wide, a decades long concerted effort to recapture Our City from the depths of crime and violence, of such a poor quality of life that life long residents and businesses fled for greener suburban pastures for years.  Our City in July 2018 opposed to 1986 in many fundamental ways is so vastly different that the younger generations of NYPD MOS hardly believe the tales they are told.

The gathering here was small, mostly family, friends, colleagues, and of course the useless politicos who just could not resist the photo op.  The churning of the City could be heard; some birds chirped in nearby trees, pigeons strutted around, and the omnipresent wail of sirens drifted through the warm air.  It was a bit eerie standing at this site on this day filled with the significance of this small plot of ground in our sprawling City.  As Cardinal Dolan was finishing his Invocation two squirrels could be seen just beyond the grass line above the stone bearing the plaque. They both sat momentarily motionless perhaps somewhat disoriented by a group of people who did not move; the cadence of our prayers may have soothed them.

The ceremony was brief, it felt more a formality than sacred devotion.  It may be the final piece of our City to be dedicated to one of our own who led a life of goodness and peaceful resolve after being wounded so grievously by a young person he forgave.  Steven taught all many lessons.  He converted some of the most cynical and jaded among us to at least believe that Faith was possible, that so much of our lives is a matter of choice not circumstance.  We will forever honor his legacy and remember his courage and message of forgiveness.

Rest in peace, Steven.  We are all confident that you are resting easy in the Light and Warmth of the Lord.    

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2018 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2018 © All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 11, 2018






(Monday June 11, 2018 Woodside, Queens) His note was blunt, to the point, devoid of any emotion.  It read like the assembly instructions for an IKEA furnishing except he was not putting anything together, he was about to take his life apart.  He left it on the front passenger seat folded into a small plastic bag.  He’d wrapped a towel around his head like a turban so as to not leave too much of a mess.  His death was not reported in the news; it was a very isolated loss, his passing mourned only by family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. His death was but a number, a statistic that goes unnoticed and unaddressed.  He was just one of the 22 military veterans who take their own lives daily: a stark truth about the ravages of war and the national disgrace that shatters the covenant, the sacred duty and responsibility our Country has to provide for the well-being of all military veterans, those men and women who served to defend and protect us.

A society can be measured but what it values; the currency of a culture is one of priorities, ethics, mores, and the historical norms that have shaped it.  While culture can be subject to the whims and wanderings of the day it only survives intact when a solid understructure of tradition, a shared past remains.  By virtually any measure employed to access where our society and culture is today the fact is undeniably harsh and clearly illuminates that we are failing in both.  Our national priorities are so terribly skewed, our culture of celebrity without merit, success without effort, violence as entertainment, the profound absence of accountability and responsibility are ominous indicators that we are a country adrift.


Every day on average 121 Americans commit suicide.  Of those, twelve Law Enforcement Officers kill themselves and, in each category, the real numbers are no doubt higher due to the variety of methods one can use to kill themselves to make it appear to be accidental rather than intentional. Death certificates rarely list suicide as the manner of death; in most quarters to this very day the act itself remains a taboo dirty little secret not to be discussed outside the confines of the family and those closest to them. When an NYPD Officer dies in the Line of Duty the local papers always splash the headline that the City mourns their passing.  That is as insulting if not offensive, and as untrue as it is specious.  The “City” as a collective of almost 9 million residents could really care less that an Officer has been killed and certainly has no sympathy for a Cop who commits suicide.  That’s just the way it is.

It is against this telling background that the recent suicides of a “Celebrity Chef” and a successful fashion accessory designer provide a glance into the cultural conscious and societal soul that defines today in the US of A.  Yes, the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are tragic realities to their families and friends. We are in no way diminishing the gravity of their demise, we’re merely pointing out a cultural dichotomy that is plain as day.  There has been so much attention to these suicides in the media that it is difficult for some of us to understand why the public seems so distraught. Every 9.1 minutes some one in NYC dies, most of natural causes including complications from chronic conditions, accidents and suicide; Bourdain and Spade were just two of them. There are more suicides in NYC than homicides.


Our elected politicians are crass and craven as well as opportunistic, ever on guard for a circumstance or event to exploit. Yet, every now and then a politician will stoop to lower and lower depths of their stock in trade. Wasting no time our senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, the Democrat Leader in that Chamber took to the Senate floor to deliver a speech of such overt self-righteous, self-promotion that even for a schmuck such as he it was a new low. He had the audacity to parlay the two high profile suicides into a call for additional mental health and suicide prevention funding.  Did he give this speech when the alarming rate of veteran suicides became evident? Did he give this speech last year when more Law Enforcement Officers were killed in the Line of Duty ever? The answers are no and no.  Two “famous” very wealthy personalities decide to end their lives and this lousy asshole uses them as political fodder.  Small wonder why so many Americans hold the Congress in such abysmally low regard.

Twenty-two veterans, twelve Cops every 24 hours find themselves amid a cloying darkness of depression and despair, fatality, frustration and futility that they make the decision to end their lives, to escape from whatever or whoever their particular demons may be.  Death by suicide is one of a singular aloneness, of a weariness of the soul that breaks the spirit and the victim’s connection to the possibility of tomorrow. Once life becomes mere existence devoid of even the faintest flicker of hope and possibility, death beckons.  Yes, the specter of Death obscures all light and mocks the desolate soul.  Death becomes a viable option, a feasible alternative step into the unknown.


We had come to this place on this day to mark the birthday of one of our own who had taken his own life a few years ago.  Back in the day some of us regularly gathered here to, watch a ball game, tell stories, celebrate family milestones and to drink ice cold beer on tap and Jameson Irish Whiskey.  Some of us did not see each other as often as we once did; familial obligations, transfers and retirements had thinned our rank.  But for those of us here on this day the hands of time seemed to have both stopped somewhere over our shoulder and simultaneously accelerated.  We were as a group grayer and heavier than we had been, but our bond was as strong as ever.  To a man we could not have cared less about the recent high-profile suicides; we’d been around long enough to have experienced the unique sense of loss in the wake of a suicide.  We understood it to a point; a few of us confided that they too had once been close to “pulling the plug”.  Somehow, we had all survived our Job and ourselves up to this day.

We drank shots and made toasts to our departed and still very much missed friend. Years ago, each of us processed through the aftermath of his suicide, the interminably asked questions of what we might have missed, could have missed and the dissection of every last conversation we had had with him until he decided to place his service piece in his mouth and pull the trigger. There was no one around to hear the echo of that single fatal shot, the shot he’d apparently believed would unshackle him from whatever the weight that haunted him and deliver him to salvation? Damnation? Either way he believed the unknown was more acceptable than his temporal being.

On the anniversary of his death we meet to pay our respects at his grave.  The numbers etched in the pale gray granite that is his tombstone show just how brief his time on earth had been.  1957 to 2005, such a fleeting slice of existence and a sad statement of where he was psychically when he took his life.  We each feel the vagaries of our existence when we navigate the odd terrain of a broad and deep cemetery like Mt. Calvary.  Reading the inscriptions on other tombstones along the way to our friend’s plot of this sod, it is easy to become a bit maudlin, even oddly morose.  Passing through the wrought iron gates that define this storied cemetery back out to the street the sounds of the City are once more registered.  The grinding clacking of a subway, the groans and gurgles of diesel engines in trucks and buses, the incessant horn honking, siren wales, and din of life in this Great City. 

We part ways consumed by our own thoughts, we may wonder what those interred in the acres behind us were like when animated with life.  Perhaps each of us wonder for a moment if one among us is close to taking their own life.  Who knows, who can tell.  Suicide is just another facet of the infinitely complex and confounding human nature; it is not a forgone conclusion that it is always a cowardly, selfish act, proof positive of some deeply seated mental disorder or weakness.  It is what it is and all we can do is the best we can.

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Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2018 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2018 © All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, March 14, 2018



Officers Piagentini and Waverly are forever Honored, Remembered, and

Respected for their Service and Sacrifice


(Wednesday March 14, 2018, 32nd Precinct, 250 West 135th St.) He has an official website.  He has earned degrees, written all sorts of doggerel, and radical tripe.  He has the support of some ill-informed, arrogant Hollywood backers who have adopted his plight as their cause celebre.  He has allegedly spent the last 45 years living with an unblemished record.  On May 21, 1971 he ambushed two NYPD Officers with a bogus 911 call and murdered them in cold blood.  One of the young Officers, Waverly Jones, died immediately after being shot.  The other Officer, Joseph Piagentini the father of two young girls plead for his life.  Herman Bell tortured the mortally wounded Officer shooting him 22 times delivering the final rounds from Joseph Piagentini’s own gun.  He was an active member of the Black Liberation Army, a violent radical group birthed during the racial strife of the late 1960’s. Bell, until very recently, had never expressed any remorse for his role as an executioner.  Quite the contrary as is evidenced by some of his prison writings. And now, perhaps as early as the end of the month, Herman Bell, now 70, will walk out of the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill a free man. To label this act a travesty of justice is a gross understatement. That the New York State Parole Board has granted this Cop killer his freedom is an insult to all who are and have ever served in the NYPD and Law Enforcement writ large.

There are many parties to this travesty, many groups and individuals who have worked over the years to recast Bell as someone he is not – a “changed man”.  He only admitted to having some small degree of remorse before his parole hearing in 2016 when he calculated that doing so might be advantageous to his cause.  The fact of the matter is that for virtually his entire prison sentence he enjoyed some notoriety in the twisted subculture among incarcerated convicts, precisely because he was a “Cop killer”.  His street reputation and Black Liberation Army (BLA) credentials afforded him a comfortable life in the various facilities where he served his time. Bell saw himself as a “political prisoner”, an activist and “a tireless soldier in the fight for justice”.  He has never disavowed his allegiance to the BLA and the Black Panthers.

Speaking earlier this morning with an old acquaintance, a retired Correction Officer who had served many years in a penitentiary where Bell was housed recalled some of his observations from over a dozen years ago.  Asking to be referred to only by his first name, Matt, he recounted that, “Bell back in those days had never lost his nigger swagger…you know that kinda hitch in the step strut that all the niggers used to have”.  Matt continued, “He (Bell) enjoyed something of a charmed life inside because of his status as an “OG” -an Original Gangsta, because he was “Old School”, and most definitely because he was a Cop killer.  The younger convicts treated him like royalty and Bell always had a smirk on his face when I interacted with him or any CO spoke with him.  It was a condescending smirk if that can be said know what I mean.  It is a sad day for so many knowing this fuck who participated in the murder of 3 Police Officers will soon be out”.

The world has moved on, times have changed since the “War Years” in large cities across the country infected by virulent racial strife, open warfare against Law Enforcement Officers, and the cultural and societal upheaval that it may be difficult for younger people to understand.  But, we remember; we, of a certain age, remember all too vividly those days.  We remember at odd times and when we each make a private pilgrimage to the NYPD Memorial Wall in Battery Park.  We, NYPD has a historic memory and an institutional memory.  There is an unbroken cord that runs all the way back to 1900, to 3100 Spring Street, that binds all the men and women who have ever served and serve to this day. We are bound in duty and honor; bound by the sacrifices of service, the fact that we are indeed all Brothers and Sisters serving for a greater good but also giving our utmost for those we work with.  Our loyalty is neither blind nor blinding. 

When we stand in front of that marble wall and trace our fingers over the engraved names we are most familiar with and those whose stories have been passed down by our seniors when we were just out of the Academy and beyond, we feel the connection and know full well the meaning of “But for the Grace of God there go I”.  Ours can be a brutal business; ours is often a risky endeavor.  But it is what each of us has chosen and with our choice comes the obligations, powerful obligations to the NYPD as a whole and those we serve with and those we seek to protect.

Yes, Herman Bell will walk out of prison a free man, allegedly a “changed” man deemed so by the NY State Parole Board to be “no longer a threat to society”.  How does the Parole Board make such a determination, how can they act with any degree of certainty?  How does a panel composed of politically appointed flackies and hacks make this kind of decision?  Are they clairvoyant, do they possess the uncanny ability to see inside a murders mind and soul?  No, it’s all a crap shoot, and they hope for the best.

Bell’s family, for what it is 40 years hence can celebrate his homecoming.  He can return to his peers as a hero having survived incarceration. Members of the Waverly Family may have forgiven Bell; for the record, none of the Piagentini Family has done so.  To them and all of NYPD this decision stands as an insult.  Those of us remaining who remember those dark days and the atrocities committed by Herman Bell can only hope he suffers a long, protracted painful fatal disease. Divine retribution, Celestial justice is our only desire.

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