It was the winter of 1973 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and four men in their 20s who had vowed to fight to the death were holding about a dozen hostages inside John and Al’s, a sporting goods store on a busy commercial block of Broadway. The siege would last 47 hours, one of the longest such dramas in the city’s history, and mark a turning point in the New York Police Department’s approach to hostage situations.
The police arrived at about 6 p.m. on Jan. 19, a Friday, foiling an attempted robbery of the store by four Sunni Muslims seeking guns, rifles, pistols and ammunition for “a holy crusade.” A three-hour shootout ensued. Gunfire crackled and boomed in the evening air.
Several officers on the scene were pinned down behind cars and elevated track pillars as shotgun blasts and gunfire raged. Stephen R. Gilroy, 29, an officer who had been behind an elevated train pillar wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot in the head and killed on the scene. Two other officers were wounded, as was one of the gunmen inside the store.
Dozens of pedestrians were trapped in nearby restaurants and shops on the thoroughfare near the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
After the initial gun battle, the police did not fire another bullet.
A Muslim minister was one of several religious leaders who tried to establish a dialogue with the kidnappers, who had ripped out all the phone lines in the store.
“If you want us to leave as Muslims, to go home, fire three shots,” he said from the tank’s bullhorn.
Three shots were fired in rapid succession.
By the next afternoon, two hostages had been released and a third was let go in exchange for a doctor bringing medical supplies to treat the injured gunman.
At about 1 p.m. on Sunday, the third day, 43 hours after the siege began, the nine remaining hostages were left unattended by the gunmen when they heard footsteps in the adjacent furniture store.
Led by a store manager, Jerry Riccio, the seven men and two women tore through half-inch plasterboard to get to a hidden staircase that led to the roof. There, they appeared, one by one, to the surprise of the police officers standing guard.
The gunmen had lost their leverage, but not their stockpile of weapons and ammunition. And for several tense hours, it was unclear if they would fight to the death, as they had vowed to do.
Later that afternoon, at about 4:45 p.m., one of the haggard gunmen appeared with his hands over his head. The others gave in shortly after.
The gunmen, who were identified as Salih Ali Abdullah, Shulab Abdula Raheem and Dawd A. Rahman, were escorted to the 90th Precinct station house on Union Avenue. The fourth gunman, Yusef Abdullah Almussudig, who was suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, was taken to Kings County Hospital.