Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Charlie Chop-off

"Let Him Out!"

Several officers rounded up the various witnesses who had seen the man loitering in the Lower East Side area on the day of the murder, but once they examined the man in custody, each one told said he was not the person they had seen.

Thus, for the investigators, the suspect was cleared, but the crowd that had formed outside did not abide this turn of events. A mob mentality had formed and they were certain this man was the killer.

Police Barricade
Police Barricade

People filled windows in the building across from the Seventh Precinct at Clinton and DeLancy Streets, scrambled onto roofs, jumped barricades, and crowded onto the steps of the station's entrance. A few even hopped on top of police cars that lined the street, and one young man, the Times reported, held up a noose made from a clothesline. They were ready for a lynching. Rumors had spread over the weekend that the killer had been prowling the area, ready to kill again. In fact, on Monday, a man who resembled the composite had been chased from the area into East River Park. People were afraid for their children and angry that no one had yet been caught. They yelled to have the offender brought out to the streets, many of them chanting this demand in Spanish, "Traiganio para fuera!"

Protesters
Protesters

Bilingual detectives went out with bullhorns to tell them that they should go home because the man they were questioning was no longer a suspect. But the crowd yelled over their voices and remained where they were, attracting even more people to join them. That drew patrol officers from other precincts to assist with crowd control. They formed a line, set up more barricades, and stood with billy clubs ready.

Trying to release Gonzalez back onto the streets caused a near riot in the neighborhood. "A crowd of about 500 people besieged a police station on the Lower East Side for more than two hours yesterday," Fred Ferretti wrote, "demanding that the police turn over to them a man they believed to be the slayer of four young boys."

To get Gonzales out of the station and through the crowd, they dressed him as a police officer. But first they sent out a decoy. Two officers rushed out the door, followed by a man dressed in civilian clothes who shielded his face. The three men entered a panel truck and drove away. But apparently, Ferretti stated, no one fell for it. Instead, they shouted, "Liar!" They awaited the real "killer" to emerge.

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