FROM QUEENS TO AFGHANISTAN
“I traveled to some places you don't go to for vacation,” he quipped. “Part of it was working with foreign governments.”
In September 2006, authorities in Iraq rounded up 19 people linked to a plot to bomb a subway train in the city.
“Let’s just say I traveled on that job,” he said. “At one point, I think I was up for three days working that case.”
Through it all, the NYPD never saw fit to promote him even though everyone else on the two mob cases got bumped up. He retired as a detective third grade.
“It’s still a mystery why nobody promoted him. He was certainly recommended,” Fagan said. “Promotion in grade is a funny thing.”
For Spinelli’s part, he says he’s not upset about it.
“I was kind of disappointed. It would have been nice, but I wasn’t bitter,” he said. “That's something beyond my control.”
He then spent 16 months in Afghanistan chasing opium lords with the U.S. Special Forces in a classified role, where he found himself under fire several times.
“The drug money buys the bombs, so we went after anything that could be used against our troops,” he said.
“We seized tons of raw opium and put bombmakers out of business. We seized homemade explosives, triggers, wires, all the ingredients for making a bomb.”
Spinelli finally had enough of adventure and came home to run a small security business and play golf with his buddies. He has a regular NYPD pension that earns him about $80,000 a year.
“One time, we’re out on the course and see this guy beating his bag with a club,” he said. “My buddy says, ‘We ever get like this, we're never playing again.’”
On July 5, Gillespie died of a heart attack.
“Richie called me, and usually we’re goofing around on the phone,” he said. “He goes ‘We lost Billy last night.’ It was just hard to comprehend because I saw him the week before.”
Spinelli is working on a book about his experiences as a tribute to those he worked with, including Fagan, Gillespie and Detective Eileen Corrigan, who died of cancer in 1999.
“It’s a unique story,” he said. “Not a lot of people have had the experiences we had. I want to get the story out.”