Sometimes when I get my hands on the primary source like court records I am very disappointed. The reason I am disappointed is because of the lack of documents in the case file. This almost always happens with Brooklyn homicide cases. Here is an example of one. In December 1960, a member of the Jackson Gents named Andrew Whalen (aka “Bo”), died after being stabbed twice in a fight. When I requested the case file there was a grand total of about 10 different documents. That was the smallest case file I had ever seen to date. Of those documents, only one of them described what happened and that was only on one page. It left a lot to be desired, didn’t mention the gang aspect or the events leading up to it, during it and after it:
Thankfully, I have met a former Jackson Gent who was there that day. He has a sharp memory and as you can see from the description of the death of his friend Bo nearly 53 years ago, it feels very real to him still:
I don’t know what bullshit story the Times printed, the newspapers never get it right. Want to know what really happened? I was there, I believe it was early Dec. 1959. Maybe the 5th or 6th, I don’t recall. The weather was unusually warm, Bo, that was his nickname, was only wearing jeans and a tee shirt with a short poncho over it. If he had been wearing a winter coat he might be alive today.
The night before, Buba and Jimmy and me broke into the basement of a Deli and we stole a few cases of quart beer bottles. It was late so we put the beer in our club on Ainslie St. Bo was there when we got there, he only lived a few doors away, we decided to drink it the next night when all the guys were there.
The next afternoon a couple of guys drank a few bottles but bitched about it because it was warm. That night I got to the club about six, Bo was already there and he had a metal tub with him. He said we could get some ice from Franks store and chill the beer so that it would be cold for later. Frank only had a small block of ice so we took it back to the club and put it in the tub. By now the guys were showing up. Buba, Bo, Stevie G and Ju Ju decided to take the empties back to the store and get the deposit. I stayed in the club and chipped the block of ice with a hammer and screwdriver. More Gents were showing up, Mikey Blind, Jerry, Dee, Carlo, Sammy Chink, Ronny and Petey Zotch.
Outside Buba, Bo, Stevie G and JuJu were walking up Bushwick Ave. towards Grand St. The laundromat was on Bushwick about 3 or 4 doors from the corner and directly across the street from St. Catherines Nursing Home. Buba was carrying a quart bottle of beer and drinking it while they were walking. Ashley and his crew were standing outside the laundromat and one of them was carrying a pillow case with what looked like clothes in it but it was filled with rags. They were looking for trouble and they found it They were not alone because back down Bushwick Ave. near Devoe St. were the rest of his crew.
Buba asked them what they were doing on our turf and Ashley pulls out a knife. Buba smashed one of them over the head with the beer bottle and the shit was on. Ashley stabbed Bo twice in the back and they took off down Bushwick Ave. The guys carried Bo across the street to St. Catherines. Ju Ju ran back to the club came flying through the door, he was weraing a short black raincoat and it was covered in blood, he yelled to me “the niggers are on Bushwick Ave. and they stabbed Bo.” We piled out of the club, Stevie G and Buba were on the corner, we met there and they said Bo was stabbed but he was going to be alright, so Jerry F went to St. Catherines to be with Bo and we headed down toward Devoe St.
The fight started in front of Carvel on Bushwick and Metropolitan, there was a parking lot that went around Carvel so Mikey Blind and me went through the lot so we could get behind them. When I came out of the lot I was staring at this short heavy set guy named Black, he had a hunting knife. I didn’t see it at first , so I lunged at him, he swung the knife at me and it passed so close to my nose that I felt the breeze. Mikey Blind was behind me and he smashed him in the face with a garbage can cover. They fell back across the street and stopped at the gas station across from Carvel. We charged them and were fighting all over the station. I was fighting with some guy when the gas station attendent opened the door a crack and yelled to me “Kill the bastards.”
They broke and ran back towards Coopers Projects, which were about four blocks away. We were standing there when Jerry F came running down toward us and yelled “Bo can’t talk.” We turned and headed after them. We caught them on Kingsland Ave. in front of Greenpoint Hospital, about half a block from the projects. They were taunting us and backing up, trying to draw us into the projects. What they didn’t know was, we didn’t give a shit. Buba dove at them and pinned one of them against the hospital fence. He held the bars of the fence and pinned him with his body. We charged each other, Buba had his back to us and someone stabbed him a couple of times in the back with an ice pick.
We could hear the sirens, the cops were coming. Everyone started to run. I saw Ronny on the ground I picked him up and dragged him across the street and threw him into the vestibule of one of the houses and dove in after him. The cop cars were everywhere, they arrested some of the guys, thats when Buba found out that he was stabbed. He told me that at at the police station one of the cops saw him bleeding and said “Hey this kid is stabbed.” I stayed with Ronny until he was able to walk and we got the hell out of there. We found out the next day that Bo was dead. I don’t remember how much time Ashley got, what I do remember is it was a slap on the wrist, maybe a year.
As you can see from this very detailed description, the details from the court record above leaves much information out. And so you can see that the ideal situation is if possible, talk to those who were there to get their perspective. If I didn’t meet this person the details behind the court records would probably never be known. Take a look at the picture below. It’s of 86 Bushwick Avenue. Half hidden by the truck is an awning that says St. Francis which is where the laundromat was. This is where the fight started that fateful evening. Click here to learn more about Bo and who he was, I have a short description of his character.