Dennis Dixon, Donald Cooper and William Turks worked in car maintenance at the Coney Island Transit Authority. Shortly after midnight on June 22, 1982, the three black men stopped for a snack at a bagel shop in Gravesend. A trio of white youths approached, yelling racial slurs. Dixon tried to drive away, but his car stalled. When he went to check the motor, one of the white men hit him in the side of the head with a beer bottle. He would later need 25 stitches. Abruptly, the white mob swelled from 3 to 20. Dixon and Cooper ran in opposite directions and escaped. Turks was beaten to death. His killers left him lying in the gutter.
Eyewitnesses placed an 18-year-old weightlifter named Gino Bova at the scene, beating Turks with a stick. Bova was charged with second-degree murder. The jury, 11 white and 1 Hispanic, convicted Bova of second-degree manslaughter instead. Second-degree manslaughter is legally defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice either express or implied, and without intent to kill.” Emphasis mine.
At sentencing, Justice Sybil Hart Kooper gave Bova the maximum penalty for each charge, to be served concurrently. She said, “It was a lynch mob on Avenue X that night. The only thing missing was a rope and a tree.” Five other men were charged in connection with Turks’s death, but Gino Bova got the stiffest penalty. He served less than 8 years and was paroled in January 1991.