How two Boston police officers shot and killed an innocent black man, mistaking him for an armed robbery suspect; how the police hierarchy tried desperately to cover up the mess; and how O'Donnell's father, a Boston Irish lawyer (and an ex-cop to boot), took the men in blue to court and, to everyone's surprise but his own, won a large ""wrongful death"" award from an all-white jury. It was a tragic mixup. Bowden's license plate was similar to that of the getaway car used that day in a Cambridge robbery. Two sharp-eyed undercover cops spotted the plate when cruising through a ghetto housing project, then staked out the Bowden car. There were two versions of what happened when Bowden showed up and started to drive off: the cops said they approached the car on foot, identified themselves, and shot Bowden only when he tried to run them over; a newspaper reporter crouched on the floor of the police car (in a one-in-a-million coincidence, he'd been assigned to that team for a ""ride-along"" story) said he heard nothing but the shots. Then the cover-up began. An automatic weapon was ""found"" near the scene of the Bowden shooting (no good--the Cambridge holdup men had used revolvers). An alleged accomplice of Bowden's was arrested and a ""search"" of his pockets turned up bullets (no good--the bullets were shown to be the type used in police revolvers). The Cambridge robbers were tall and thin, while Bowden was short and fat (solution: delete all references to his height from police reports, and destroy his driver's license records). The automatic tape-recording of calls to the central police ""turret"" would reveal the fact that the cops checked the wrong plate number (solution: the turret tape ""malfunctioned"" that day). Attorney O'Donnell seemed to be getting somewhere (solution: arrest his son for disturbing the peace and beat him up). All in all, a chilling account of how a police department tried to break all the rules when two of its own were on the hook, plus lots of sharply-etched Boston Irish local color.
Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983
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