Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Neptune Murders

The Final Assault

At about 2:45 PM, a decision was made to enter and search the 2nd floor of Neptune. No shots had been fired for several hours and although Cowan had spoken on the phone with Lt. Perotti at 12:30 PM, no one could state that the suspect had been seen or heard from since then. Sgt. Bill Augustoni, 43, a 15-year veteran police officer was picked to command a small assault team to enter the 2nd floor area of Neptune. Moments before they began the search, a single shot rang out from inside the building. But no one could say exactly where it came from.

The assault team consisted of four officers and Sgt. Augustoni. They entered into the maze of hallways and offices on the second floor where none of them had ever been before. Blood flowed down the steps and bullet holes were clearly visible on the walls and through doors where Cowan had fired indiscriminately just hours before. Carefully, ever mindful of what could lay behind the next corner, the team made their way up to the second floor. Outfitted in thick flak jackets and steel helmets, armed with heavy weapons, the men quickly became drenched in their own sweat. Sure that Cowan could hear their pounding hearts, Augustoni guided the team to Vice President Kirschenbaum's office, the last known location of the suspect. As he approached the target room, Augustoni hugged the wall, wishing there were more places to hide, more closets to jump into, more recesses where he could disappear from view, away from the deadly sights of a berserk killer who had nothing to lose by killing another cop. The door to the office was ajar and the team was able to look inside. They got their first glimpse of what they believed was Cowan laying on the floor near a desk. With weapons at full ready and every man's finger on every trigger, they entered the room. If a floorboard had creaked, if a paper had fallen off the desk or a fly had landed inside that room, all guns would have been blazing. But it was quiet. In the north corner of the room, Augustoni and his men saw a body, laying face down. As they got closer, they could see a large pool of fresh blood under and near the head. It was a large man, wearing an Army field jacket, combat boots and two shoulder holsters. A bloody beret lay near the desk. A gaping bullet wound to the side of the head was plainly visible. Clutched tightly in his right hand was a .45 caliber automatic. Another handgun lay on the floor next to Cowan's left side. A 9mm automatic was situated on the desk along with several ammo clips for the SACO rifle and military style ammo pouches. The other 9mm was still in its holster, blood dripping from its handle. Next to the corpse, leaning against an office chair was a SACO semi-automatic assault rifle. Various ammo clips were strewn about the office floor mixed in with dozens of expended rifle shells. There were bullet holes in the desk and in the walls, through the windows and the doors, a testament to the accuracy of police snipers and Lt. Fontanarosa's response to Cowan's first barrage. It was over. Cowan was dead, apparently by his own hand. It was 5:40 PM, almost 10 hours since the massacre began.

"The perpetrator is dead" Sgt. Augustoni reported over the radio to the relief of everyone. To ensure there were no bobby traps or other surprises, a special bomb squad was called in to effect a systematic search of the body and the immediate scene. Cowan was officially pronounced dead at 6:00 PM by the City Physician. "I wanted him alive" Harris recalled, "We wanted some answers, some meaning to what he did and why he became that way." Inside the killer's pocket, police found a membership card for the National State's Rights Party in the name of Mr. Frederick W. Cowan. On the reverse side of the card, it listed several membership principles. They included "A free white America, Racial Separation, Expulsion of All Jews and Confiscation of ill-gotten Jewish Wealth." And on the bottom of this same card, the party's slogan read "Honor, Pride, Fight-Save the White."

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