Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Neptune Murders

The Siege

The police brass at the command center struggled to gain control of the scene. The first goal was to understand exactly what happened. It is not easy to determine the true nature of such a situation until enough facts can be gathered and witnesses can be interviewed. Police at the early stages of this incident did not know how many suspects there were inside Neptune or if they had hostages. They were not even sure if Cowan was acting alone.

Ambulances from all over Westchester County rushed to the scene. One ambulance got too close to the Neptune building and Cowan fired a burst from the upstairs office. A bullet went through the windshield of the ambulance between the two EMTs. Police snipers, positioned on two separate rooftops, one across the street and another atop the Schaefer grocery building, tried in vain to get a clear shot at Cowan still hidden behind the cursed tinted glass.

Detective Robert Harris, 41, Viet Nam veteran, responded to the scene a little after 8:00 AM. Racing to Neptune with lights and siren blasting, he turned onto Weyman Avenue. At that moment, bullets came crashing through the windshield, shattering the glass into his face. Harris immediately slammed on the brakes and punched the car into high speed reverse. "I had visions of Viet Nam. The windshield was blown out. I thought I burned out the tranny 'cause I shifted so hard. I backed that car up right through a plate glass window of an electronics store," he said recently. Harris jumped from the car and took cover. Down the street, he was amazed to see crowds already assembled even though bullets were bouncing off the pavement. "I couldn't believe people were there!" he said, "I got down on my hands and knees right away."

For the next hour, police and company supervisors tried to account for all Neptune employees. There were unconfirmed reports that up to 30 men and women were hiding in locked bathrooms and closets too terrified to come out. During that first terrible hour, periodic bursts were fired from Cowan's position at the police snipers across the street. The police returned fire but were unable to get a direct line on the crazed gunman, safely obscured by the heavy window tint.

Police borrowed two delivery trucks from the Schaffer grocery company. P.O. Juliano, who like Schraud was held over from the midnight tour, took cover behind one of the trucks. They carefully backed up the vehicles toward Neptune where the wounded officers waited for rescue. "We stayed close to those trucks, believe me. They blocked Cowan's view as we got closer to where Satiro and Fitzgibbons were" said Juliano. "We couldn't get to Mcleod though, the fire was too heavy" he added. Lt. Fontanarosa, Officers Satiro and Fitzgibbons, all wounded, were safely evacuated and conveyed to the hospital. Mcleod, however, lay exactly where he fell. At about 9:15 AM, a call was made to the New York City Police Department. A tank was needed in New Rochelle, was there one available?

On Weyman Avenue and in the surrounding area, massive crowds began to gather and were quickly pushed back by police. Bullets from Cowan's high-powered assault rifle had struck buildings, shattered windows and hit parked cars several blocks away. The media arrived and set up wherever they could. Live feeds were established to television and bulletins went out over T.V. and radio urging citizens to stay away from the south side of New Rochelle until the incident was resolved. Many police departments in the area, such as Pelham P.D., White Plains P.D. and Westchester County sent help to the scene. Soon, there were hundreds of police officers, dozens of police vehicles from various commands and high ranking police brass from different cities and towns, all on separate radio frequencies eager to help. Estimates later indicated that over 400 cops were at Neptune at one time or another during the day.

At about 10:30 AM, a tank rolled down the city streets. A twenty-ton armored personnel carrier was quickly transported to the scene by the New York City Police, striking cars and causing several accidents along the way. The police weren't wasting any time. The APC could be used as an offensive weapon if need be. But for now, it had a sacred mission. With several police officers crouched behind the massive vehicle, the APC approached the parking lot where RC2 was still parked and next to it, Officer Mcleod's body. Hundreds of officers watched and prayed as the vehicle inched closer and closer to the fallen hero. Every cop at the scene realized the awful truth: that it could have easily been any one of them laying dead on the ground. Such is the nature of the job. Death or life is decided in a chaotic process that is mostly unpredictable. That is why cops often find religion during their careers. They may not attend church or practice it in a formal way but they develop a strong faith in God and in some sort of ultimate justice that they believe must prevail.

The massive APC pulled directly in front of Mcleod's body. Two New Rochelle officers carefully picked him up off the ground and pulled the body inside the vehicle. He was removed from the scene and all cops breathed a little easier.

"Mcleod is no longer with us!" someone announced over the police radio.

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