BERNIE THE BOOKIE: From The Heart of a Gangster

Marshall Frank

By Marshall Frank

Most people who are introduced to my history as a 30-year law enforcement officer in Miami-Dade, Florida, immediately draw a conclusion that I’m a tough guy.

Not true.

I hate guns. Hate fighting. I was terrible at sports. I’m reluctant to call anyone “Sir,” especially those who had not earned the moniker. My six-year nightmare in the U.S. Marine Corps (reserves and active duty) was an exercise in utter misery. Yet, I was able to fake through it.

When people hear that I authored fifteen published books (fiction and non-fiction) and had over one-thousand op-ed articles published in various newspapers, they draw a conclusion that I’m an intellectual.

But I never ever saw myself as an intellectual.

I do not read for recreation, nor anything I don’t want to read. As a kid, books were a bore. Adults accused me of having “ants in his pants.” I flunked high school English, two years in a row. I did not graduate because I rarely attended classes. My tenth-grade English teacher, a humble old woman, didn’t want to see me flunk so she offered me a special assignment to read any fiction book of my choice and write a report citing story-line, characters, plot and publishing details. A month later, the teacher reminded me that my paper was due the next day. Oy!

I had yet to write one word of the assignment. I had no book. With one day to go, I concocted the false title of a book (that never existed) and wrote a detailed story-line with people and places that never existed and character struggles that were totally fictional. I invented the title as I did the name of the publisher, and of course, the characters.

I got an A plus.

Forty years later, some scientific brainiac labelled a new-found psychological condition which replaced “ants in pants” and now called it, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

I could not sit still. Neither could I concentrate on classroom learning if it didn’t stimulate. I dreaded boredom.

My mother insisted I learn music, so she bought me a violin. (half-size) She had been a classical pianist as a young girl, but now we were living in a small hotel room on Miami Beach amid the post-war world of thugs and gangsters. No room for a piano. My Italian-born teacher named Atillio Canonico, said I had talent. c. 1947

My mother was also an accomplished dancer. As a twice widowed mother in 1949, she needed a job and began working for a dance studio. As a bonus, I was awarded free lessons. Yes, I learned the art of ballet, tap and Paganini at a young age. My mother had good intentions, but the rough-tough kids in school thought otherwise. At age eleven, I became the repeated subject of a classical bullying campaign. Kids surrounded me in the school yard, chanted dirty names, kicked and punched my face, and took my violin, the case, and my leotard, throwing things in the woods, while I wept.

It was a nightmare.

I pleaded with my mother to let me quit dance school. But I had to continue violin. Apparently, I was lucky to be born with an amazing ear for music.

In 1955, mom remarried her third husband, another former New York gangster known as Bernie the Bookie. He was good to her and to me. What he did in his other life was no business of ours. I was the son he always wished he had. He loved telling me stories, about his friends, Bugsy and Meyer. He’d lay back in his bed, wearing only his underwear, puffing on a cigar despite the oxygen tank on the floor near his bed.

A few years later, at age 20, I knocked up a girl in the back seat of my Pontiac. She was gorgeous. Mom was irate, but we had to get married nevertheless. I needed a regular job, so I asked Bernie if he knew any place where I could play violin in restaurants or maybe, the Miami symphony. That’s when he smirked at me and said, “I’ll tell ya what, kid. You’re gonna be a cop.”

A pall of silence cloaked the room. I was stunned. Bernie smirked, puffing the cigar. He couldn’t get over the startled look on my face.

“Bernie, that’s impossible. I can’t be a cop. Are you kidding? I’ve had some trouble with the law.” (traffic)

“Fuhgettaboutit, kid. You’ll make a good cop. Good pay, good insurance, job security.”

I still had acne pimples. Being a police officer was inconceivable. “Bernie. They’ll never hire me.”

“Yeah they will.”

“How do you know?

Bernie chuckled, like all gangsters chuckle. “Heh. I got connections.”

The rest is history. Of thirty years on the job, sixteen were assigned to Homicide where I rose to the rank of captain. It was important that no one in the department ever knew I had family connections to hard corps mobsters. I worked closely with future Attorney General Janet Reno heading up a most tragic investigation of a black motorcyclist chased down for speeding in the night. When apprehended, the cyclist was beaten and killed by several out-of-control cops. I ended up as arresting officer of five officers. After their acquittal, the Miami riots exploded in May of 1980, leaving 18 innocent people dead.

I was eventually invited to testify before the U.S. Congress in 1980, about crime problems in the United States. I also headed Homicide during the Cocaine Cops investigations, and the arrests of many corrupt officers by federal authorities. Then came the Mariel Boat lift incursion of 125,000 desperate and/or handicapped Cubans fleeing the communist dictatorship headed by Fidel. Bodies were everywhere, every day; car trunks, beaches, Everglades, trash bins and death falls from tall buildings. Miami became the murder capital of the nation, for four years.

Bernie, nor the dirty cops on the job, ever asked me to compromise my position in any legal actions or police issues of any kinds. As far as the department was concerned, I was clean, one of the good guys.

He kept me clean. One day I was chatting with Bernie in his bedroom, as I watched him taking bets on the phone. (Using flash paper…that would vanish by one lit match if the cops raided)

The idea of a little extra money sounded good. “Hey Bernie,” I said. “I know the sporting world, let me make a couple bets on the horses and baseball.”

He turned suddenly sullen. With the cigar gripped in his fingers, he lasered his eyes directly at mine, and took a deep breath. “Let me tell ya something, kid. I do what I do, ’cause I don’t know nuttin’ else. You? You keep your nose clean, and never ask me that question again.”

In March of 1966, while my mother was suffering from brain tumors on the 6th floor of North Miami Hospital, Bernie was dying on the 3rd floor from heart failure. I stood by his bedside and helped him to raise his head, sipping ginger ale from a straw. When I put his glass back on the table, he offered me a blank stare, exhaling his final breath.

I never knew much about his sordid lifestyle from the other side. But I do know I would never have risen to my successes if he hadn’t guided my life.

Thanks, Bernie.

· “Marshall Frank has authored fifteen books, fiction and non-fiction, with more to come. He is probably the most natural crime story writer in the world today.”

— — Christopher Douglas, Author, Publisher, founder of Authorpaedia

An extension of this story is available in Frank’s book of memoirs, From Violins to Violence. Frank can be reached via his web site: www.marshallfrank.com

More details about Marshall Frank at: Marshall Frank — AUTHORPÆDIA

Marshall Frank retired as a 30-year police captain from Miami-Dade, mostly homicides. Author of 15 books. www.marshallfrank.com

HONEST REPORTING VITAL IN RACIALLY CHARGED CASES

In the November 6th issue of Florida Today, the Associated Press issued an article about the renaming of a road in Miami to honor 17-year old Trayvon Martin, who had been shot and killed in Sanford, Florida in 2012. The article would have us believe that Martin deserved the honor because he was an innocent kid wrongfully murdered by George Zimmerman, a local resident serving as a neighborhood watchman. Readers would naturally assume Trayvon Martin was victimized by a racist-born madman. Martin was considered by some as a hero, especially because he was unarmed. It was also emphasized that he was black and Zimmerman was not. Sadly, the often media fails to tell the whole story.

     Trayvon Martin was no hero. He was in Sanford visiting his father, because he had been suspended from school for ten days for possessing illegal drugs. Zimmerman spotted the lanky teen after sundown, walking through the neighborhood wearing a hoodie. Some might conclude that Zimmerman was wrong to follow the teen. True or not, that doesn’t justify Trayvon Martin’s actions from there.

     Based on a myriad of evidence and eye witnesses, it was determined that Trayvon Martin angrily turned and confronted Zimmerman, a pudgy 29 year-old. Martin suddenly punched Zimmerman in the face, knocking him to the sidewalk, then sat on Zimmerman’s body flailing more punches, battering his head on the concrete. Bloody trauma to Zimmerman’s head and face supports that accusation. Then, and only then, fearing for his life, Zimmerman removed the pistol from his clothing and fired one shot.

     Had Zimmerman failed to act, he would likely have been the corpse and not Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman knew that.

     As a retired 30-year cop who handled hundreds of assault cases, including the jailing of some police officers, I fail to grasp how and why Trayvon Martin should be honored when, in fact, he was committing a deadly assault on the watchman.

     These kinds of cases and the manner in which the media sometimes portrays an event, is what stirs hatred, particularly when it’s unwarranted.

     Per Associated Press: “The teen was unarmed and walking back from a convenience store when he was shot by George Zimmerman.”  

     There was far more to that story.

     This is also reminiscent of the killing of 18 year-old Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The officer was ruthlessly vilified by the press and other citizen groups. One cable newscaster I watched went into an outrage stating, “A police officer shot and killed an unarmed boy.”

     That “unarmed boy” had just robbed a convenience store. Minutes later he was confronted by Officer Wilson on patrol, telling him to get back on the sidewalk and off the street. Weighing over 300 pounds, Brown suddenly punched Officer Wilson through then driver’s window, then reached in and grabbed the cop’s pistol, unsuccessfully.  Dazed and bloodied, Officer Wilson stepped from his car and warned the large teen to halt, that he was under arrest. Brown turned around and began charging Wilson in a menacing manner. Wilson fired shots. Brown went down, dead.

     These are facts as determined by a Grand Jury and a number of on-scene witnesses. Hate had nothing to do with it.

     This case spawned the group known today as “Black Lives Matter,” forging the perception by millions that it was a “racist” assault upon an innocent black teen. That simply was not true. Zimmerman came from a racially mixed family.

     Then began the ill-conceived chants among haters, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” as though the officer killed Michael Brown for folly. Officer Darren Wilson actually did nothing wrong. But he and his wife still live in seclusion for fear of retribution by hate mongers. His police career is finished.

     We also remember the New York City haters, marching the streets and chanting: “What do we want? Dead Cops?” over and over…while those targeted cops had to stand by, face to face, sucking it up, knowing how the press and local politicians stood by in accord. 

     The media has an obligation to be fair, neutral and non-presumptuous. Stirring emotions with errant reporting or purposeful omissions, means the reporters are guilty of manipulating facts in order to produce a volatile story.

    These are two incidents in which the media and people-mobs acted upon ill-conceived falsehoods, wrongfully castigating the innocent. Sometimes the bad guys are actually good, and the good guys are actually bad. It’s much about preconceived conclusions.

 

 

GUN CONTROL NOT THE ANSWER TO GUN PROBLEMS.

I’m a gun owner, and a 30-year career police officer, though I haven’t fired a weapon in over 30 years. It’s just not my shtick. But I sure feel safer knowing a weapon is within reach if an unforeseen and dangerous incident occurs within my purview.

     In every national election, the anti-gun brigade emerges with demands that gun-laws be more restricted, citing violent crime as the number one objective. The problem with that argument is that legally purchased guns, with background checks, have very little impact on the crime rate. Most guns used in violent crimes and/or gang activity are acquired by private sales, thievery or the black market. Thus, gun “control” is not the answer. Rarely do legally purchased guns surface in violent environments.

     Those who would overturn the 2nd Amendment would be making a horrible mistake, all in the so-called interest of reducing crime and violence.

     I do not mean to suggest that some revisions to gun laws might be in order. I totally understand the comparison about the 2nd Amendment being passed in 1791, when rifles were long and single-shot only. If that amendment was passed in today’s world, it would read much different.

     No private citizen needs to own a machine gun, cannon, or homemade bombs for that matter. I’ve also heard arguments from folks in other parts of the world, where violent crime is much lower, ostensibly because gun ownership is more tightly restricted. Yes, Sweden, France and Amsterdam and most countries in Europe have stricter gun laws which gives American naysayers justification for proposing tougher laws, or yet, abolishing the 2nd Amendment. Bear in mind, also, that our country is far more multi-cultural and multi-ethnic  than other nations in the world.

     The sad truth is that criminal gun activity is a product of the streets, mostly illegal. In a special report issued recently by the Department of Justice, state and federal prisoners who had used firearms in their crimes obtained them in the black market, while other guns were gifts from friends or relatives. Only 7 percent of guns used in crime were purchased guns from dealers and less than one percent were bought at gun shows. So much for background checks.

     The most serious problem producing violent crime in America, which we hear little about, is the dilemma of “Mental Illness.” Whereby seriously deranged individuals could be remanded by court order to mental institutions until the late 1970s, more than 90 percent of those institutions are now closed due to court decisions, leaving prisons as housing centers for the mentally ill. Prison studies have determined that roughly 20 percent of inmates (out of 2.3 million) are deemed seriously disturbed.

     Successfully fighting crime is more doable than people think. All we need to do is search for the best examples, where many problems were actually solved. In the largest city in America, murders in New York City rose to over 2,000 per year in the early 1990s. Along came Mayor Rudy Giuliani who initiated a myriad of programs to successfully reduce violent crime. When he first took command of the Big Apple, between 1600 and 2000 annual murders were tabulated. By the time he left office, those murders dropped to under 600 a year. In his first three years as mayor, over 56,000 guns were impounded from the streets. Other violent crimes dropped as well. Why? Mayor Giuliani initiated several programs, the most controversial being Stop and Frisk. With specific restrictions and training, police officers were given the green light to stop and question hundreds of thousands annually.

     Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who succeeded Giuliani, maintained the same process with results of lowering crime rates. Some folks thought it was an overreach, others screamed racial profiling was too common. But the facts support both the mayors, having saved many lives in New York City. What’s more important than saving lives and making citizens feel safe?

     The problem is not just guns. The past six months of unrestrained city riots, unprecedented throughout America, indicates how too many Anti-American people in our communities are under orders by a hidden enemy to destroy America. That’s another topic.

Marshall Frank

www.marshallfrank.com  

 

BIDEN VERSUS TRUMP: WHAT’S AT STAKE

I am a registered independent. While most of my views are generally in line with the Republicans, I do tend to side with Democrats when I agree with their points of view. For example, my feelings about Capital Punishment would be more in line with Democrats.

With presidential elections, voters seem to be more concerned about the persona of candidates, than the factors they represent, or what’s best for Americans. Candidates on both sides are beholden to financial supporters, which are not always best for the nation, but best for the donors.  Politicians, I feel, are too often putting integrity aside if it’s a matter of winning or losing.

It’s not so much about corruption of the candidates, as it is, corruption within politics. It’s a natural outgrowth of a system that manipulates political gain via the almighty dollar.

While Donald Trump is often seen as ego-maniacal, I am convinced that his goals, as president, are the least egregious as compared to most politicians in the political theater where money is everything. He is by far, the most accessible president in my lifetime, always willing to field questions from media, whether scheduled or not.  He is repeatedly willing to talk to the people of America. He is the richest of presidents, as are his family members, which assures me – to some extent – that his motives for decisions and policies are untainted by corruption and greed.

Issues aside, we now have two candidates to choose between. Here is my short evaluation.

We are not just voting for one person to be a president. We are voting for the massive political machines that come with them. Along with the candidate, come the supporters, the debts, the domestic and international finance machines, world affairs, and cabinets, lawyers and leaders who make up a very complicated government. I will vote for the candidate who is least indebted to the political well, and who truly has the best interests of Americans at heart.

Joe Biden is a nice guy. But he has his debts to pay like any politician, which might not always be in the best interest of Americans. I see Mr. Trump as owing far less to outsiders. Much like a child, he mainly wants to hear approval, gratitude and a report card of accomplishments.

I’ve been attentive to the reports of Joe Biden’s mental acuity, which has been questioned by many. For a while, I dismissed the accusations that he was slow, or stupid and confused, because it just sounded like political smearing. But as time has passed, I’ve come to feel badly for Biden because I think he is a decent man about to enter into a daily rat-race he’s ill equipped to handle. That’s not good for him, or the nation. And if he cannot match up to the daily grind of presidential demands, he should not be there.

The link below is a little more than two minutes long. It stars Joe Biden in various speaking dates. As you pass through the various scenes, ask yourself, do you really want this man – nice as he is — to be in a position to be running the country, and all that it demands. For sure, if he should get elected, the chances (in my opinion) are strong that he will not be able to withstand the mental trauma.  Frankly, I would be worried for the nation considering who might replace him. 

It’s a very serious situation.

Must See: Joe Biden Proves How Lucid He Is: Without A Teleprompter, Script Or Interrupting Staffer – YouTube

 

(My latest non-fiction book “A Boy Who Mattered: Examining the Roots of Drug Addiction,” is available at Amazon. Signed copies are discounted if ordered via my e-mail, mlf283@aol.com )

In “A Boy Who Mattered” the author draws the reader into the pathetic life of his firstborn son, Bennett, who entered the drug world before his teens, turned on by a family member. This ultimately opened the doors of dependency sickness, failure and homelessness that profoundly affected many others, friends and family, for forty years. This book focuses on the root causes of dependency and what could be done about it. Hopefully, this story will guide abusers and loved ones on options of how to combat this dreaded disease. If but one human being is saved, Bennett’s struggle will not have been in vain

FORMER POLICE OFFICER FORGIVES HIS SHOOTER

(This article was published in Florida Today newspaper this date, Sept. 14, 2020.)

 

Police shootings often occur suddenly, becoming life-changing events. When the face of death suddenly bursts out of nowhere, there’s no time for studying the handbook. 

In 30 years as a police detective, I investigated or supervised numerous deadly situations, some ending up with my fellow officers lying naked on a steel autopsy tray. There’s no redoing that. I was one of the lucky ones who survived violence, mayhem and deadly showdowns, though I did have one close call in December 1965. In fact, I hold the distinction of being the only cop in the history of Miami-Dade who was shot by a woman.

Nobody forgets such moments.  My partner, Robert Lamont, and I got a tip that a fugitive from New York, wanted for auto theft, was hiding out in a second-story apartment in Miami. We checked it out. It was true. The subject was a white male age 22, with a past prison record. His background indicated non-violence.

We arrived and knocked on the apartment door. When a little blonde woman, age 35, cracked the door open, we showed our ID. She suddenly panicked and tried to slam the door. When we bullied our way inside, she backed off screaming, “Get out!” A frightened little kid was holding on to her leg, crying. I first looked behind the door and then a nearby closet, while Lamont ran down the hallway to see if the subject was hiding. Our guns were not drawn because we knew a 3-year-old kid was inside.

As I turned around, I heard a loud “crack!” The blonde lady was waving a rifle at me from across the room, screaming incoherently, “Get out, Get out!” I froze. I figured my life was over. The world changed for all of us in a split second. I extended my hands, ordering her, “Put your gun down!”

A strange feeling from the gunshot wound wracked my left thigh. With my hands extended, I pleaded with her not to shoot again. A million thoughts swirled through my head as she waved the rifle left and right, hysterically. My world was about to end, leaving my wife, my child, my mom, my police partners, that little kid, the hysterical woman, and my job if I did anything wrong. How could I neutralize this woman before anyone got killed? I quickly lunged back out the entrance door, following her order to “Get out!”

There was no time to ponder.

My partner had located the subject hiding on a balcony. He then disarmed the woman in a matter of seconds as I re-entered the partment, gun drawn. The baby was screaming. The woman was hysterical. Our lives were likely spared because her rifle stored only one bullet, which my partner snatched with his free hand. My left leg collapsed from the bullet wound.

I spent four days in the hospital with time to reflect and cogitate. It was time for hindsight.

One, I should never have served that warrant without my gun drawn. Two, I had been too concerned about the child, worrying about a stray bullet. Three, my world — and my family’s world — might have changed in a matter of seconds. Four: Luckily, the woman was a firearm novice, or my life would have ended at age 26. Five: Thank goodness the wanted fugitive was passive. And last, I was fortunate to have a great partner in Bob Lamont.

Eunice Molter, the woman who shot me, sent me a letter from prison, begging my forgiveness. She served two years.

And, yes, I forgave her. Why? Because I could.

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.