LONSBERRY: Another Cop Killer Released in Rochester


The parole board has quietly dumped another cop killer on Rochester.

               His name is Luis Pinto. He and a couple of his pals murdered New York City Housing Authority Officer James Dunston back in 1980.

               It was a shotgun at point-blank range. Officer Dunston and his partner were responding to save a family being held hostage by armed robbers.

               The family was saved, the bad guys were caught, and 40 years later middle-aged people remember, as children, seeing their friend, Officer Dunston, lying dead on the ground.

               Luis Pinto was released in Rochester on April 7.

               Maybe soon he’ll be declared a “community elder,” like the last cop killer released in Rochester, and the paper will write some propaganda piece about what a great guy he is.

               But first, the truth should be told. About his crime. And about the man he killed and the family he wounded for generations.

               James Dunston had been in the Army, and had 11 years on the Housing Authority police department. They called him “Duck,” until his exuberance and joy made them start calling him “Super Duck.” At roll call, as they went through the list of names, he was the guy who responded, every day, with a top-of-his-lungs shout of “Here, boss!” leaving the other officers laughing and cheered.

               He was described as fearless and respected, and as loving and kind.

               More than three decades after his death, a man went on a police-memorial site to describe how, when he was a boy, Officer Dunston always looked after him, and invited him – and all the kids – to swing by the police offices, to ask how they were, to encourage them, and how Officer Dunston, gear rattling and arms swinging, would race him down the block. When the boy was 10, Officer Dunston usually won. Five years later, the boy usually won.

               “Jimmy was an amazing man,” the boy later wrote. “I never knew the impact all those encounters with him as a kid would have on my life. But I credit the man I am today in many respects to the discipline, love, and compassion shown to me by (police Officer) James Dunston. He was more than a public servant, he was indeed a friend, a father, a brother, and an uncle, I will never forget him.”

               But for some, he wasn’t a father figure, he was an actual father – and husband, cousin and grandfather.

               “Jimmy loved his wife and children,” one officer remembered, “and he spoke lovingly of them all the time.”

               “I woke up this morning thinking of you,” his wife, Karen, wrote 32 years after his murder. “I wonder what life would be like if you were here. Every time I look at our six grandchildren, I wish you could be here to spend time with them. I talk about you often, reminding them what a wonderful grandfather you would have been.

               “I miss you. Love always, Karen.”

               It was a push-in robbery. Three guys with guns in a big public-housing project, looking for a certain guy, and when their knock was answered at his door, they pushed their way in.

               He wasn’t home, but six members of his family were.

               So Luis Pinto took them captive. Luis Pinto and Julio Marsan and Manuel Gonzalez.

               It was one shotgun, two handguns and three murderers, with six hostages, in a crowded apartment in the projects in East Harlem.

               And they didn’t notice the 13-year-old girl quietly step into a rear bedroom and phone the police.

               It was James Dunston and a partner who ran to the apartment.

               They pounded and announced their presence and the door opened.

               Officer Dunston was struck in the neck and left shoulder.

               “I was 12 years old when I ran up to see what had happened,” said a man who went on to be a sergeant in the Marine Corps. “Shocked and disbelief. I only knew him by his foot patrol. He always chatted with the kids. Great man.

               “My first time seeing a dead body. And it as someone I admired.”

               Officer and Mrs. Dunston and their three children lived in the Bronx, but had just bought a house in Mount Vernon, in Westchester County.

               “He never got to live in the home he was in the process of purchasing when his life was stolen from him,” wrote his daughter Christine, upset that one of her father’s killers would be paroled.

               “The anger and sadness I feel today is indescribable. One of the men that were convicted of murdering my father will be let out on parole. He will be given a second chance at life. I don't understand why or how this is even possible.

“A police officer was murdered, a man working to uphold the law and provide for his family was killed. He was a good man, father, husband, and friend to many. So many people loved him. My heart is broken!

“There has to be something done to stop this. My father did not get to see his children grow up. He didn't get to meet his grandchildren … What kind of justice is this?

“The men that killed my father should spend the rest of their lives in prison for what they have taken from us. My father was 34 years old. We can't just let this happen he is not here to fight for himself. We need to speak up for him.”

She’s right.

We need to speak up for him.

We need to speak up for him and against a Cuomo Administration penchant for turning cop killers free. And we need to speak up against the tendency to turn Rochester into a dumping ground for the worst dregs of the New York prison system.

They might like cop killers at the newspaper, or in the salons of Brighton, and the progressives might deem them “community elders” and make them out to be Mother Theresas and Mahatma Ghandis, but real people know who they really are. Scum. As putrid now as they were back then.

Rochester stands with the family of Officer James Dunston.

And against the evil philosophy and broken system that would turn his murderer free.