The Collar at the Dunk               

by | Apr 19, 2024

Above: The site of the action. Photo courtesy of Laura Sullivan 

I have been asked on occasion, when did I think that East Greenwich started to change from the lovely, little, small town that we knew to something else, something that became unrecognizable?

I, usually, gave a two-part answer. The first sign was when East Greenwich High School moved from Cedar Avenue up into the woods off Middle Road. The second sign was when homes started being built on the farmland (EG once had 52 farms – only two left) west of Route 2.

People started coming in from everywhere. Not just families of U.S. Navy commanders, but corporate transfers from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and other parts unknown (remember, many EG people hardly left the confines of “their town” in the old days).

With outsiders came new ideas, both good and bad, and new people both good and bad.

The following story is about a couple of bad ones, who had plans of using East Greenwich banks as their own private piggy banks to fund mayhem, anarchy, and maybe, even murder on a national scale.

Thanks to two local police officers, that plot was foiled in a story that would have done any Hollywood movie proud. I will retreat to EG’s twin town, Greenwood Cove, to tell the story, and names and identities will be changed to protect the innocent, and the not-so-guilty.

~~~~~

A Dunkin Donuts coffee cup in 1975. Photo courtesy of Laura Sullivan

The two GC police officers were to meet in the Almacs parking lot and go across the street to the local Donut Dunk Breakfast Shoppe (called The Dunk by locals) for coffee and – what else for police officers? – a donut or two. 

It was a lazy, hazy spring day in the year 1975, and the two officers, Spearion “Spear” Longtree, a half-Irish, half Narragansett Indian and Giovanni “Vito” Vitello, a half-Italian, half-Irish local boy, were not expecting any trouble.

While exchanging chit-chat, both officers noted that one car in the Donut Dunk parking lot was occupied by two men who seemed to be engaged in conversation. At the time they thought nothing of it.

The two officers, who had come on the local force close to one another, held a brief convo, and then headed across the street to share coffee and a donut or two before going on to their day’s activities. Spear was off for the day while Vito was beginning his shift shortly.

Unbeknown to the two officers was the fact that the two men in the car were Ronnie Larriviere and Georgie Cardinale, two self-professed Marxists, who were members of the Determined Students for A Better Society (DSBS), a revolutionary group, anti-anything America, and responsible for armored car heists, bank robberies, and, bombings all across the United States.

What were they doing in little, old Greenwood Cove?

The two had come to Greenwood Cove and rented an apartment up on Spring Street. They then attempted to blend in with the rhythms of the town as they went about their task of learning the times of the armored car deliveries, the names and duties of the local bank managers and tellers; and, even their car make, license plate numbers. Even their phone numbers.

Spear and Vito were unaware of all this as they headed across the street to the Donut Dunk Coffee Shoppe.

What made Spear stop? What made him begin a conversation with the two men in the car? We may never know. A BOLO (be on the lookout) release had been issued a few days before on a car matching the description of Larriviere’s car, but, whether that was what peeked Spear’s interest, or something else, we will never know.

All of a sudden, Spear drew his gun and yelled at Vito to draw his too.

“Gun” was all he shouted and both officers had their weapons out and pointed at Larriviere and Cardinale.

Spear had seen a bulge in a paper bag that was on the seat between the two men and had recognized the outline and some part of it sticking out of the bag as a weapon.

The officers got both men out of the car and braced them against it. Hands on the roof while they searched both the men, and then, eventually the car, while calling for backup.

In the trunk they found 21 guns, an assortment of pistols and rifles, later found to be stolen. They also found 700 rounds of ammunition and four hand grenades. Enough to start a little war. Or, to rob a bank, or, an armored car or two.

When other police cars came on the scene the two, handcuffed already, were taken to the Greenwood Cove Police Station.

The local reporter, Scoop Thompson, having heard of the collar on his police radio, was there waiting, and full of questions. Some of which were answered. Some not.

Channels 6, 10 and 12 showed up and the media event became a circus, attracting bystanders as they brought the two would-be bank robbers to the station.

The two would-be robbers were booked and locked in a cell at the GCPS.

But that was not the end of it. 

A couple of hours later the phone rang. The caller, purported to be a member of the DSBS, threatened the local police, telling them that their followers would be coming to Greenwood Cove, and would be springing their two captured members. The tone was violent and threatening.

That night a young officer, Bill “Tinfoil” Saren, stood watch at the jail, armed with an M-14, a shot gun, and two pistols, all fully loaded and ready to do battle should anyone attempt to spring the prisoners from jail.

It was a long stressful night. 

“I was jacked up,” said Officer Saren, “I was a little scared but no way was anyone getting by me. They were definitely not getting Larriviere and Cardinale. Over my dead body!”

And, no one did. The tense night ended and in the morning state police arrived to take Larriviere and Cardinale to Kent County Courthouse. They were arraigned and, surprisingly, made bail.  Cardinale’s mother posted the bail and set the two dangerous men free to prey on society.

The two then disappeared and went underground away from the eyes of law enforcement and the general public.

Later, they resurfaced and killed a state trooper in New Jersey. They were caught in a traffic stop and said they felt threatened by the officer, so they shot him.

Cardinale was later killed in a gun battle with police while trying to rob a Pennsylvania bank.

Larriviere was eventually convicted of conspiracy and violation of the RICO act. In 1987 he was sentenced to 45 years in prison. In prison he refused to work for the prison labor unit, which was making guns for the U.S. Department of Defense. He said his duty in Vietnam as an Army grunt, was the thing that radicalized him, and he wasn’t making any guns for the Vietnam War.

 

In 1999 he was released from 13 years in solitary confinement and got out of prison altogether in 2004 after serving half of his 45-year sentence. 

He then published a book of his experiences, “Life as a DSBS Hard Man.”

Larriviere joined Cardinale in the ground in 2012.

**** So there you have it. The outside world came in and touched little Greenwood Cove in 1975. An adventure that you might see in a movie. Two “big time” outlaws stopped by two small town police officers. Of such things are movies made and books written.

Never saw it on the screen or written page though. ‘Tis probably best.

Yes, it all happened here. In little Greenwood Cove, a small town, in the smallest state, in, what was then, the greatest country on Earth!

**** Much thanks to Billy G., the Caddie Cop, and Officer Don Mong, now a local artist, both former EG Police Officers, for providing this writer with the particulars to write this story. I changed some of it, but the basics of the story are true. Read the original news story from 1975 HERE.  

Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks that contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.

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Bruce Mastracchio
Bruce Mastracchio
April 20, 2024 6:13 am

I had only written a couple of paragraphs of the “Collar” story up to yesterday morning.
I then called Billy G., who was in the hospital with some health problems.
We talked for awhile, and after I hung up I sat down and wrote the rest of the story in about an hour and a half.
Looks like I still have “The Magic.”
ps: Scoop emailed me later with the news story from the Pendulum. It was great, and, as I’ve always said. When Elizabeth adds the pictures, it is the icing on the cake.
Hope you enjoyed it. Maybe our local movie producer (Verdi) could do a movie on that episode in EG history.

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