Warren Bond played college football at UCLA and hoped to play in the NFL. He made it onto the Jets in 1982, but didn’t play in any games. NFL players went on strike that year and Bond did not want to cross the picket line. In the meantime, he needed a job.
His brother-in-law, who was a cop, suggested Bond sign up for the police academy. The strike lasted just two months, but by the time it ended, Bond had decided that the career path of a police officer was more appealing than that of a football player. The starting salaries were similar, and the job security was much better.
He graduated from the academy in 1983. Within three years, he rose to the narcotics unit. There, he worked one of the most dangerous jobs in policing: undercover drug busts in crack-era Brooklyn
See also last week’s feature story: The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella
Years later he would become a top murder detective and would join the Brooklyn North Homicide squad. He would work alongside detective Louis Scarcella, the subject of last week’s feature story.
But before all that, there was Bond, one day in the late 1980s, on the ground floor of a stash house in Bed-Stuy, betting his life on the assumption that the man with the machine gun would not suspect he was a cop.
He and his partner, Reggie Holcomb, were supposed to be working back-up on this bust. The plan was that two other cops would go in, make the buy, and then Bond and Holcomb would follow and make the bust.
But the two cops had failed to make the buy. They had entered the row house and then walked right back out. They had judged that the operation was too risky.
“We’ll do it,” Bond told the two cops. “Trust us.”
Bond and Holcomb were good at this. They were exceptional undercover officers because they didn’t see themselves as much different than the men they were buying from and arresting. Bond grew up in Brownsville. He played dice in East New York housing project hallways and got roughed up by the beat cops like the rest of his friends. Some of those friends became drug dealers.
And so when he hit the streets as a cop, he didn’t treat the men he arrested as if they were an inferior species. The only difference between him and them, he liked to say, was that his gun was legal. “What you’re doing is to feed your family and what I do is to feed mine,” he often told the dealers.
He understood his power and did not take it for granted. He understood the view from the other side.
“All I saw was another minority losing his life, another minority going to jail,” he says now. “AlI I saw was someone that could have been my cousin or a guy I grew up with or my daughter’s friend.”
He blended into the streets well as an undercover. He wore ballcaps and gold chains and spoke with street slang. It looked natural because it was.
“Once I’m off work, that’s who I am anyway,” he says. “The streets is where I came from. It didn’t phase us any.”
Being from the streets was not enough, though. Bond had to convince a dealer that he was a legit drug buyer. He had to have his story straight. He was an unfamiliar face to the dealer, and the dealer might want to know how he found the place.
There was no room for mistakes in this job. The smallest detail could tip off a dealer. “If you were buying crack, you better know what color the tops were from that locations as opposed to another location,” says Marq Claxton, who worked undercover drug busts in Queens.
When Bond and Holcomb entered the Bed-Stuy row-house, they saw why their two colleagues had thought this place was too dangerous for a bust. There were around 25 buyers crammed in a hallway. There was a guy with a gun in front of the entrance door and a guy with a gun behind the entrance door. There was a guy with a Mac-10 machine gun at the top of the stairs. That was where the dealer and the stash were.
Holcomb went upstairs and Bond stayed at the base of the stairs. Holcomb tried to make the buy. The dealer questioned him. He said he and Bond did not look like addicts. The dealer seemed antsy and raised his voice. Bond told the dealer he needed to calm down.
He told the dealer that they were buying the crack for a couple of prostitutes they had picked up at the Lincoln Terrace projects. This eased the dealer’s mind. He made the sale.
Then Bond and Holcomb “took the building,” as Bond puts it.
They drew their weapons before the drug crew members could and not a single shot was fired. The crew scattered. The officer arrested the man with the machine gun, plus four guys hiding in the stash room. One of them tried to flush the stash down the toilet, but it clogged. Another tried to jump out the window but the officers grabbed him before he made it out. Then they arrested the 25 or so buyers on the first floor. A few minutes later, the two other officer working back-up busted in.