After 43 years, cop killer set to walk free

Outraged police and slain officers’ families fight parole decision

An astonishing crime in a bedroom community

Northlake Police Deputy Chief Norman Nissen, Jr. stands in front of the memorial to slain officers Anthony Perri and Det. Sgt. John Nagle. Nissen is coordinating efforts to prevent the parole of Henry Gargano who was convicted of killing the two Northlake police officers during a 1967 bank robbery. (Tribune photo by Chuck Berman / July 14, 2010)

Northlake is my former employer and this is personal to me. This scumbag is even lucky he is alive! And, the bleeding hearts are about to let him go? Unreal!!

When Robert Nagle learned recently that the man who murdered his father was scheduled to be paroled, Nagle’s first thought was about whether Henry Michael Gargano was still a cold-blooded killer.

“And then I was surprised at the justice system,” Nagle, 49, said Wednesday. “Then again, I know that the justice system doesn’t always serve justice.”

On Oct. 27, 1967, Gargano and two other men unleashed a torrent of gunfire at police officers during a robbery at the Northlake Bank, killing Detective Sgt. John Nagle and Officer Anthony Perri. Two other officers were wounded.

It was an astonishing crime in a bedroom community of 14,000 — a place where the aroma of bread, cookies and cakes would waft across town from the Entenmann’s bakery factory. Before that day, the most trouble that stirred in town was an occasional fight at the high school, police recalled.

But also astonishing to Northlake police and the relatives of the two dead officers was news that the U.S. Parole Commission had set Gargano’s release date for Sept. 3 without notifying them. Gargano and the other two men each had been sentenced to 199 years in prison, and the victims assumed that meant they would remain behind bars the rest of their lives.

Two weeks before the Northlake killings, the men had wounded two Ohio police officers in a similar shooting during a grocery robbery.

Northlake Deputy Police Chief Norman Nissen Jr. said he got a report “from a street source” in April that Gargano, 77, would be released from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Outraged, Nissen and others in the community have collected more than 6,000 signatures on petitions opposing his release and started a Facebook group to fight Gargano’s freedom. They filed a nearly 200-page affidavit calling for the U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider its decision.

The board has put Gargano’s parole under “special reconsideration,” a process leading up to another hearing, tentatively set for early August, at which Gargano may address concerns about his potential release, said Johanna Markind, a lawyer for the federal parole commission.

Former Northlake police Officer Mike Cain said he hopes to be allowed to testify against Gargano’s parole by video link from his home in Las Vegas. Cain, now 68, arrived with Perri at the bank as Gargano, Ronald Del Ranie and Clifton O. Daniels opened fire with military assault weapons they had stolen from a downstate armory months earlier. Cain was wounded in the right arm.

“I saw a door open, and I saw a rifle poke out, and that’s when the shooting started,” said Cain, a retired Nevada State Police officer. “I yelled at Tony to get down, and I pushed him down on the seat. The first bullet went through my window and then through his window.”

Perri grabbed a shotgun, threw the car into park and rolled out of the car, Cain recalled. The barrage of bullets pierced the car’s engine block and struck Perri several times, he said. Cain was stuck in the footwell of the car, and bullets fired at him were deflected by a metal ridge that was part of the squad car’s design.

In the bank, 3-year-old Mike Masella was waiting with his mother, who was trying to arrange a loan, recalled Masella, now 46 and living in downstate Alton. The three men walked in and started shouting. His mother, Stella Masella, threw herself on top of him and suffered a superficial wound from a bullet that grazed her, he said.

Masella, who also opposes Gargano’s release, remembers her blood trickling onto him, he said, and the sound of the gunshots. He said he has sought therapy and been medicated for psychiatric problems that he blames, in part, on the trauma of the robbery. To this day, he has nightmares about the robbery and jolts awake to the sound of gunfire in his mind.

“It’s a weird thing to live with,” he said. “I don’t know if you ever get rid of them.”

Robert Nagle, who was 7 when his father was killed, recalled his mother “acting strange” when he came home from school for lunch on the day of the bank robbery. At that point, radio reports had broadcast news of the crime, but it was unclear whether she knew her husband had been killed, Robert Nagle said.

“We got home from school that afternoon, and I remember a bunch of people at our house, mostly relatives,” Nagle said. “Then our mom took us into a back bedroom and finally told us our dad wasn’t going to be coming home.”

He remembered being scared at the closed casket for Perri’s funeral, and he recalled what seemed like 300 police cars at his father’s funeral.

“We grew up differently than all the other kids did,” Nagle recalled. Like his two brothers, he opposes Gargano’s release.

“If he would show some level of remorse, any human decency,” Nagle said, “it would be easier to take.”

When Gargano’s parole was approved, a board report suggested that Gargano “will not engage in further criminal activity and … that the evidence of this is his clear conduct for the past 10 years and his advance in age and poor health.”

Markind said the Bureau of Prisons manages the notifications of victims’ families upon an offender’s release, but parole commission staff try to help with notifications. She said no victims of Gargano were registered with the Bureau of Prisons, so no notifications could be made.

Nissen and others are preparing for the upcoming hearing, in part by compiling what he said is information that should prompt the parole commission to keep Gargano behind bars. That material includes reports of two escapes from prison and at least one planned escape; prison time still due on an earlier parole violation; and a quote from a 1981 Chicago Tribune interview in which Gargano said, “I don’t feel any remorse for those dead cops.”

“We’re not aware of any attempt by Mr. Gargano to ever show any remorse toward these victims or their families,” Nissen said. “It’s always been about him.

“The parole board is going to go by the book,” Nissen said, “and we’re going to throw the book right back at them.”,0,7443503.story

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