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1981 Brink’s Armored Car Robbery: How This Tragic Event Strengthened the First Joint Terrorism Task Force

This case, code-named NYROB by the FBI, was the first major investigation of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) formed in 1980.

On October 20, 1981, 11 individuals associated with the Weather Underground, a radical domestic terrorist group, carried out the robbery of a Brink’s armored car at the Nanuet Mall near Nyack in Rockland County, New York. Using high-powered weapons, the terrorist group stole $1.6 million, and shot and killed bank security guard Peter Paige. During their getaway, they also shot and killed Nyack Police Department Sgt. Edward J. O’Grady, Jr., and Police Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown.

The tragic event is significant because of the devastating loss of life that day, but also because of its impact on how multiple law enforcement agencies joined together to investigate and hunt down the fugitives responsible for the robbery and murders. This case, code-named NYROB by the FBI, was the first major investigation of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), formed in 1980 with a Memorandum of Understanding (MUO) signed by the head of the New York FBI Field Office, Deputy Assistant Director Kenneth Walton and New York Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Operations Patrick Murphy. The mission of the newly created JTTF was to investigate the growing number of terrorist acts targeting New York. The multi-law enforcement agency partnership was the first in the county.

Retired Agent Neil Herman, who served 25 years with the FBI, and retired NYPD Detective/Lt. Kevin Hallinan, who served 25 years with the NYPD, provide a fascinating review of the 1981 Brink’s armored car robbery on the true crime and history podcast FBI Retired Case File Review. During the episode, Herman and Hallinan, both living legends in law enforcement, also review the three-year crime spree in the New York metropolitan area that preceded the robbery, and discuss the early days of the FBI-NYPD JTTF and modern terrorism. Their messages to active agents and law enforcement are truly inspirational.

Hallinan, who lived in Rockland County, witnessed the heroic response of local law enforcement and the community firsthand. “Small-town police officers being killed like that was a unifying cry to law enforcement that we all had targets on our backs, and we best come together to bring this reign of terror to an end,” he said. A year after the robbery, Hallinan was appointed as the co-commander of the FBI-NYPD JTTF. Hallinan is the author of Over the Wall: From the Dangerous Streets of NYC…Through the Birth of Counterterrorism and Beyond, his memoir from beat cop to detective and fighting terrorism alongside the FBI.

Herman, who joined the task force a couple of years after the Brink’s robbery, was assigned to coordinate the fugitive hunt for major players of the terrorist group who had evaded capture. “The tragedy at Nyack, New York, set off a wave of investigations with the Joint Terrorism Task Force that literally wrote the book on how the FBI and the NYPD would parley and work together,” he noted. Herman was later promoted as the FBI supervisor of the task force where he managed local, state, and federal investigators from 1992 until 1998. While leading the task force, his team accomplished five extraterritorial renditions/extraditions of international terrorism subjects to the U.S. to stand trial. He has appeared on camera in hundreds of interviews regarding terrorism-related matters on 60 Minutes and all major networks.

Follow this link to listen to the full case review – Episode 278: Neil Herman and Kevin Hallinan – 1981 Brink’s Armored Car Robbery – or listen on your favorite podcast app.

Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams served 26 years as a Special Agent with the FBI. During most of her Bureau career she worked major economic fraud investigations and was amazed at the schemes and deceptions con-artist and corrupt corporate and public officials would devise to steal other people’s money. She notes that with a gun, they can steal hundreds. But with a lie, they can steal millions. Jerri often jokes that she is reliving her glory days by writing about the FBI. Her prior professional encounters with scams and schemers will provide plot lines for many years. During her FBI career, Jerri specialized in cases targeting major economic crime and corruption. Her investigation of a $350 million Ponzi scheme perpetrated against unsuspecting nonprofit organizations, high profiled philanthropists and beneficiary donors resulted in a 12-year prison sentence and multiple forfeitures; the international advance fee scam case she conducted resulted in a 14 year prison sentence and the forfeiture of the subject’s residence; and her major investigation of business-to-business telemarketing fraud, which included a long-term undercover operation, resulted in 16 search warrants, 25 convictions, and many multi-year prison terms. Jerri received numerous awards throughout her career, including four United States Attorney Awards for Distinguished Service, three of them for her work on the cases noted. Being interviewed and appearing on CNBC’s American Greed in the episode—Confessions of a Con Man—was a highlight of Jerri’s career. Toward the end of her federal law enforcement career, Jerri was appointed as the spokesperson for the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, taking on the responsibility of educating and informing the media and public about the Bureau. Post-FBI retirement, Jerri served as the spokesperson and Director of Media Relations for SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation provider. Both positions often placed her in the spotlight in front of local and national news media.z Jerri is currently using her federal law enforcement experience and communication and media experience to host and produce a popular true crime and history podcast—FBI Retired Case File Review—where she interviews retired FBI agents about their high-profile cases and careers, corrects clichés and misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies, and reviews crime fiction. The podcast can be accessed on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other popular podcast apps. In her new book, FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives, she presents her top 20 clichés about the FBI. Each cliché has its own chapter, where she provides a reality check while breaking down the facts. Throughout the book, she includes quotes from retired agents about how the FBI actually works and reviews popular films and fiction featuring FBI agent characters. The entertaining companion book, FBI Word Search Puzzles: Fun for Armchair Detectives is also available. Jerri is under contract as a technical consultant for major TV networks and production companies wanting to create authentic FBI dramas and characters. Her crime novels—Pay to Play and Greedy Givers—feature a female FBI agent assigned to a Public Corruption and Fraud Squad in Philadelphia. Actual true crime FBI cases inspired the plotlines of both stories.

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