The New York
State Athletic Commission conferred—there was talk that a 45-year-old fighter
who had been knocked out so emphatically should be barred from the ring—but
decided to let him continue to box, and he immediately went into training for a
June 14 bout at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y. The night
before the shooting he boxed a six-round exhibition against Angel Oquendo in
the Bainbridge theater in the Bronx.
great," he said. "I was moving and slipping punches, never felt better.
Next night I was going to go to the Yankee- Cleveland game in the Stadium. I was
going to meet Rocky Colavito—he's coaching for the Indians now—after the game.
I know him from the neighborhood. I decided to buy a suit in the B&G before
I went down there."
He was sitting in
a chair in his room in the hospital. Outside the room two policemen and a
policewoman stood round-the-clock guard, just in case the gunmen decided to
come back and finish the job. There was a tube running from Halpern's nose and
another from his right arm, and a drain was attached to his side. He had been
in the hospital for five days; the next day he would be transferred out of
have time to think," he said. "They were right on me. I heard one of
the guys from the store yell 'Bobby,' and I got my left hand up, and then I
felt the heat from the blast. The first thing I thought was 'shotgun.'
blast burns like someone throwing hot cinders in your face. When you get hit
with a slug from a .38 it's like someone punches you. I didn't go down from the
shotgun. Then I felt punches in the chest—the .38 slugs—and I must have gone
down. I don't remember it. I kept thinking, 'Who'd want to kill me? Who'd want
to kill me like that?' "
Detective Kelly said there are two ways the police can get a break in a case
like this—Halpern identifying the gunmen or someone from the neighborhood
coming forth to identify them.
neither has happened," he said. But the neighborhood is alive with rumors.
"One thing I heard is that it didn't come from downtown," said
Halpern's brother Warren, a 40-year-old gas and oil dealer in Garnerville, N.Y.
"People from the neighborhood told me it was a personal thing; it wasn't
ordered by any of the big guys. But even if it's a personal thing, who'd be
that mad at him that they'd want to take him out? You can't believe how loved
Bobby is in that neighborhood. The night he was shot, there must have been 100
guys down at the hospital trying to give blood for him."
policeman who knows Halpern well said that he has had plenty of chances to make
enemies. "Since he's been out of prison he's been clean, as far as we're
concerned." the policeman said. "If I told you he stole a lollipop or
stuck up a store, I'd be lying. But that doesn't really mean he's been hanging
around with the right people. He worked as a bouncer in a bar some evenings.
Well, maybe one night he bounced the wrong guy."
There have been
rumors of outside shakedown attempts in the neighborhood, of racketeers who
have been trying to move in and assert themselves. "What better way to
establish yourself," said a friend of Halpern's, "than to come in in
broad daylight and take out a neighborhood idol like Bobby, right in his own
But a man who has
known Bobby since he was an amateur fighter 30 years ago and who also knows the
East 187th Street neighborhood as well as anyone, shook his head and said no.
"Any outsider coming into that neighborhood after pulling a stunt like that
would never leave alive," he said. "I don't think this was a very
professional job. Two guys have him set up point-blank like that and they blast
away, and he comes out of it alive. If the real professionals have a contract
on you, that's it.