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Did Marc DiNardo have to die?

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

During the procession before Marc DiNardo’s funeral, I was struck by the number of separate commanders responsible for telling their units what to do. Meanwhile, an important-looking man in a brown suit dashed around the front of St. Aedans Church carrying a walkie-talkie, trying to keep each sub-leader apprised of what was happening.

But that was the problem: No one had any idea. ‘Cycle cops got stopped short, pipers nearly clipped bystanders, and photogs ignored the police “pen.” If such an enormous urban department can’t get such an act together in 48 hours, how would it respond in a crisis?

Which makes me wonder:  Did Marc DiNardo have to die?

Shots rang out again in Jersey City this weekend, and not that far from the church where DiNardo’s funeral was held less than a day before. Police didn’t have much more information than that, but how much do we really need?

Just last week, Jersey City police said they had to shoot a troubled woman dead after she cut one officer on the hand and grazed another on the head with a knife. Days earlier, a pair of city youths were arrested for beating, stripping and raping a woman right on a city street. There was also a report of a trio of teenage gunmen ramming four police cruisers and opening fire during a chase that began after a street robbery.

This is what the adoptive city of my immigrant grandparents has come to,
amid a recession that has left several police departments fighting with their unions over health benefits and other givebacks, instead of concentrating on strategies to fight crime. With EVERY recession comes its lethal sidekick — street violence — and this economic nosedive we’ve been in for how many months now is no different.

God bless every soul who turned out to honor a true hero, who gathered as one to show his loved ones that they cared enough to get up early, don the dress blues and drive however far they had to so they could be in place at attention when the cortege rolled up.

It would’ve helped if someone had figured those places out in advance.

There were different groups from different departments in different lineups, sometimes sidestepping as one to allow for others to elbow their way in; there were motorcycle police from dozens of deparatments backed up, before an alert officer took control and got them past the church and into a spot where they wouldn’t collide.

Bagpipers and drummers, honoring their fallen comrade in lockstep, reached the end of the line only to find that no one had left enough room for them. No sooner did their individual lines get past the church than they had to turn around and march AGAINST THE FLOW. It was as if Busby Berkeley was leading the USC band at halftime — five lines heading south, five lines heading north.

My point in all this?

The Jersey City Police Department knew the situation days before days in advance. Family members wanted to coordinate with the doctors and be sure Marc’s organs were donated and have their opportunities to say proper goodbyes privately — as they were entitled. So, for all intents and purposes, the clock for the department began ticking more than 48 hours before the funeral procession began.

And still, they couldn’t get it straight.

The chain of events leading to this terribly sorrowful day were set in moticion when an armed robber whom police were tailing pulled out a shotgun one morning and blasted out the windshield of an unmarked police car, clipping a cop in the leg. The thug and his wife then holed up in an apartment in an otherwise working-class neighborhood dotted with drug dealers.

The brass sent the A team, the Special Response unit, including Marc DiNardo. Police not only cleared the building, they got neighbors out of the line of fire. Then they took positions.

Before long, the order came down — from somewhere outside the building, law enforcement sources said — for the special force to storm the apartment. No sooner had they rammed down the door than Shakur, standing five feet away, opened fire, striking DiNardo on the side of the face and sending him into a state of unconsciouness from which he never recovered.

I am not a cop. I have never been a cop. And although I have written about them for nearly 30 years and count so many of them as my longtime friends, I wouldn’t pretend to know anything about policing — especially strategy.

But these friends do, and many of them share the same concern.

Jersey City’s top command knew what was on the other side of the apartment door: Hassan A. Shakur, 32, an armed robber crazy enough to shoot a victim, point blank, in the stomach — and then to try and blow away two city police detectives. With him was his wife, Amanda G. Anderson, 22, who might have been armed herself.

Any and all civilians were out of harm’s way. There were no hostages.

The advantage clearly belonged to the police.

They could’ve sat on the apartment and brought in negotiators. They could’ve cut off the gas, so the danger of an explosion was removed, and turned off the electricity, on a sweltering morning.
They could have waited Shakur out, brought in fresh officers, gotten both of them out without anyone hurt.

Yes, it’s Monday morning quarterbacking, second guessing. But it also seemed the safest move, those who’ve dealt with these kinds of incidents say.

“(Shakur) had already shown reckless disregard for the life of a police officer,” one law enforcement veteran with extensive emergency services experience said. “They evacuated the building. They should have had negotiators talk them out, or at least pursue a tactical advantage.

“What’s the hurry?”

Here’s the one possible wild card: Although coroners pulled dozens of slugs from Shakur, Anderson was found with a single bullet in the back of her skull. If ballistic tests show that Shakur killed Anderson in some type of crazed murder-suicide, then the officers were right to bust in.

If not, we may be looking at a group of leaders who have plenty of explaining to do.

Terrorists are holed up everywhere, it seems, yet no one seems able to flush them out. Amid the guerilla war, law-abiding citizens have to work, shop, shuttle their kids back and forth. All the while they have to hope they’re not caught in a crossfire.

After the clusterflock I saw the other day, I’m doing some hoping of my own.

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