There are dumb crooks, and then there are the mind-boggingly stupid ones that should be in a hall of fame somewhere. And a guy named Jerome Blanchett may just have become the Ty Cobb of criminal idiots.
Jerome took a loaded handgun into the Holiday Inn in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with the intention of robbing a victim at gunpoint. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Mr. Blanchett as he passed dozens of unmarked police cars in the parking lot.
A sign at the hotel's entrance welcoming 300 officers to the Pennsylvania Narcotic Officers' Association conference didn't phase the would-be armed robber one bit. He either can't read or pays remarkably little attention to detail. Despite the poor choice of crime scene and potential "marks," the 19-year-old Harrisburg man went into the men's room and waited to rob the next person who walked through the door, according to local authorities.
That person happened to be John Comparetto, a retired New York City Police Department lieutenant. "He chose to rob a cop in a place where there were 300 cops," Comparetto told reporters from the Patriot News afterward. "He's not very bright."
The retired NYPD lieutenant said he walked into the bathroom at about 8:15 AM and noticed a man in baggy blue jeans and a dark coat washing his hands. Comparetto went into the stall and when he walked out three minutes later, he was staring down the business end of a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
Blanchett demanded money, and Comparetto calmly handed over $138, police said. Blanchett took Comparetto's cell phone, told him to drop his pants and threatened to kill him if he tried to follow him. Comparetto didn't indicate what he was thinking at that moment but it must have been something like, "Man, this is gonna be good."
Seconds after Blanchett left, Comparetto pulled a handgun from his ankle holster and went after his attacker. It was only moments before he and other officers took Blanchett into custody as he was trying to get into a taxi. "He's yelling, ‘Don't shoot me,' and I said, ‘If you move your hands, I'll kill you,'" Comparetto said. "He was almost crying."
Blanchett, who is awaiting trial on four previous robbery charges, was arraigned on new robbery charges along with charges of making terrorist threats, reckless endangerment, simple assault, carrying a firearm without a license and illegally possessing a firearm.
"You're a danger to have on the street," Smith told Blanchett before setting bail at $1 million. When a reporter asked Blanchett for comment as he was led out of court, he said, "I'm smooth." When asked if he could explain that, Blanchett smirked and said nothing.
Comparetto, 56, retired from the NYPD in 1999. He was the chief of the Passaic County Sheriff's Department in northern New Jersey before retiring from that job in August 2008. He now works part time for the Rockland County, N.Y., Sheriff's Department, about 30 miles north of New York City.
He put all that experience to work in a few seconds when he made the risk versus reward calculations in terms of taking the hood down solo. "I knew I could take away the gun, but I hurt my back a few years ago," Comparetto said.
"I'm too old to be fighting people. So I made an assessment that I would cooperate and worry about this afterward."
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