It was a time on a trip to Washington when he was thrown into the Potomac River by parties hostile to guardian angels. When he attacked the undercover officer, he mistakenly thought he had attacked the mechanic. And the time he buried a classmate from kindergarten in the sandbox because the dolls were once too often dragged by a pigtail.
Discovering the facts can be difficult, as many of the stories told by Mr. Sliwa – and others about him – are intertwined with the tradition of guardian angels.
But he was born in Brooklyn in 1954. Growing up in Canarsie, his father, a United States Merchant Navy sailor and Liberal Democrat, and his mother, a Catholic, encouraged him and his two sisters to accept the public. services. His younger sister Maria Sliwa remembered him as an extremely intelligent child. “I would inhale books,” said Ms. Sliwa, who works for his campaign. “He didn’t have to study and he would get an A.”
However, Mr. Sliwa dropped out of high school. He married briefly in his early 20s and moved to the South Bronx, where he worked as a night manager at McDonald’s on East Fordham Road – he regularly chased robbers out of restaurants, he said. With a series of shockingly violent crimes airing in the evening news, the idea came to fruition. He soon teamed up with a dozen other young men and they began patrolling the subway in red berets. In 1979, the group became known as the Guardian Angels.
City officials quickly labeled them vigilant.
“He wanted to play cops and robbers with so-called guardian angels who were minors, untrained and had no job to try to control the subways,” said Bill McKechnie, who at the time ran a union of transit officials and became Mr. Sliwin’s enemy.
The public had a different view. When city newspapers reported on the exploits of guardian angels, many New Yorkers exclaimed: members of the group returned a wallet full of cash to the rightful owner. They tried to stop the robbery. They rescued a cashier. Mr. Sliwa kicked a rifle out of the claws of a much larger man while falling from a subway platform.
Mr. Sliwa spent his days with interviews, sometimes on national television. With his second wife Lisa, also the head of the Guardian Angels, he posed for magazine stories. The group became the subject of a television film in 1980. It soon spread to cities across the United States and then to other countries.