He was one of the most decorated cops in the history of NYPD. From his "wiseguy" relatives, he learned the meaning of honor and loyalty. From his fellow cops, he learned the meaning of betrayal.
His father, Ralph "Fat the Gangster" Eppolito, was stone-cold Mafia hit-man. Lou Eppolito, however, chose to live by different code; he chose the uniform of NYPD. And he was one of the best -- a good, tough, honest cop down the line. Butu even his sterling record, his headline-making heroism, couldn't protect him when the police brass decided to take him down. Although completely exonerated of charges that he had passed secrets to the mob, Lou didn't stand a chance. They had taken something from him they couldn't give back: his dignity and his pride.
Now, here's the powerful story, told in Lou Eppolito's own words, of the bloody Mafia hit that claimed his uncle and cousin...of his middle-of-the-night meeting with "Boss of Bosses" Paul Castellano...of one good cop who survived eight shootouts and saved hundreds of victims, who was persecuted, prosecuted, and ultimately betrayed by his own department. Full of hard drama and gritty truth, Mafia Cop gives a vivid, inside look at life in the Family, on the force, and on the mean streets of New York.
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April 26, 2005
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Excerpt from Mafia Cop by Lou Eppolito
When he took the call from Homicide, Detective Eppolito was seized by the feeling that his belly was dropping out of his body. He clenched the receiver and only a childhood discipline held back the tears. "Men don't cry," Ralph Eppolito had instructed his son over and over, and as the Homicide sergeant suggested that Louie be present to identify the bodies, Detective Eppolito repeated the phrase to himself like a song's refrain.
Men don't cry. Men don't cry. Even when it's your uncle and cousin lying on a slab in the morgue.
Then Louie recalled the ultimate lesson his father had taught him about life in the family business: Nobody never gets killed for no reason.
"He had to go," Ralph Eppolito would explain to the twelve-year-old Lou, who reacted with wonderment and awe. "Go where?" he would ask. "To St. Louis? The West Coast?" Ralph Eppolito would merely shrug and turn his back on his son, muttering to his wife that their only boy would never understand "the ways of our world."
But by the time Louie was a teen, old enough to accompany Ralph on policy-slip runs, or a bookmaking pickup, or merely to break down a crap game, he had indeed come to understand the nuances of the family firm, as well as the true meaning of his father's cryptic lessons: when somebody had to go, they stayed gone. Whether it was an ostentatious mobsterturned-informer like John "Johnny Roberts" Robilotto, personally dispatched by Louie's father and uncle, or one of the many capo di tutti capi toppled by hostile takeovers, Louie learned that, in the lexicon of Organized Crime, "gone" meant "gone forever."
Now Uncle Jimmy and Cousin Jim-Jim were gone. Gone forever. Taken out, "gangland-style" the newspapers would report, behind an elementary school in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. Three .38-caliber slugs in the head had taken Uncle Jimmy, a capo in the Gambino Crime Family; four in the face had dispatched cousin Jim-Jim, a wiseguy wannabe.
Nobody never gets killed for no reason, Louie thought as he fought the image of his dead kinsmen sprawled across a South Brooklyn sidewalk. Childhood memories welled up inside him. Jimmy Eppolito goading his sickly nephew, who was still recovering from rheumatic fever, to stretch the single into a double, the double into a triple. The recollection of his father's funeral, and his uncle pulling him aside and draping a beefy arm over his shoulder.
"Always remember, you're an Eppolito," Uncle Jimmy had consoled him. "When one hurts, we all hurt. I'm here to share your pain."
"Our whole lives we've lived with this," Louie said to his mother when he broke the terrible news. "I was stupid to think we'd left it behind." Tess Eppolito was used to Louie's calls at all hours of the night. He'd made it a point to phone her every time a New York City cop was shot, to let his mom know that he was all right. They'd laughed at him in the squad room for his habit. Big, burly Eppolito, calling his mommy. But Louie ignored the jeers. He knew about family, and understood a mother's fear.