Pistol Pete’s Beginnings
The notorious Soundview/Castle Hill sections of the Bronx were known for poverty, crime-ridden projects and rampant drug sales and abuse. This cauldron of go-hard, gully streets defined what a ghetto was and it wasn’t anything nice. These same streets were where Pistol Pete grew up and came of age. They spawned the child that became Pistol Pete. “The neighborhood is good for dope and crack.” Money, a Bronx native from the era says. “That area is the same like Hunt’s Point. That shit is twisted. It’s all the South Bronx area. Spots everywhere.” And Pistol Pete was no stranger to the game. You could say he was born into it.
In court papers it was said Pistol Pete’s criminal behavior stemmed from his early years in a dysfunctional family. His father, the papers pointed out, was serving a 50-year prison term for his role in a drug organization. “Pete subconsciously idolized his father,” the papers said even though his father abandoned his mother and spent most of Pete’s childhood in prison. His father, Leonard Rollack, was convicted of racketeering charges in the 1980’s. He was allegedly connected to the Nicky Barnes organization. Gene Gotti, Angelo Ruggiero and Mark Reither from the Gambino crime family were his co-defendants. Brenda Rollack, Pete’s mother, said of Pete’s father, “He was in prison but I had left him when Pete was three. He hustled, he was a street person and he was violent, but not around me. That’s why I left him and took Petey, I didn’t want him to grow up like that.” But despite Brenda’s best intentions Pete was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I had him in Catholic school up until high school. Me and Pete were so close, he never gave me any problems,” Brenda said. But when Pete started going to public school with the neighborhood kids his outlook changed. “When I switched him over to public school, he went to Stevenson High School where he met Twin and that’s when he started changing.” Through his peers Pete was introduced to the wider world. He started discovering the streets and found he had a liking for them. The lure and trappings of the drug game appealed to him in particular. The money, the women, the bling-bling, the cars and most of all the power were strong temptations for the young Pete. “In the early 80’s, like 81-82 Pete was a kid back then. Like 11 or 12,” an oldhead from the neighborhood remembers. “He was still going to school back then. His dad was a street legend himself so Pete got mad respect for that.” Being the sharp kid that he was he studied his surroundings, took note of who was who and watched how dudes were making moves and coming up. Learning from observation while at the same time building his own crew around him Pete finally decided that he was ready to get his and get his by any means he did. If Pete was anything he was a leader. And in the streets he was known to be fearless. Though not large in stature, he had a heart that was crazy big and his neighborhood peers took notice and rallied around him.
“Projects are a good breeding ground for gangs,” Money says. “Kids from broken homes, poverty level areas are prime candidates. The gangs take them in, give them that family.” And in Pete, the kids from Soundview and Castle Hill found a figure to look up to. To lead them. “Castle Hill projects is big.” Money says. “Them twelve-story joints. It’s a world of its own. The projects are something else. Soundview are smaller, but bigger inside. The way that shit was you drove in then you had to go on foot. You could drop a body over there and it’d be two to three hours before the cops showed up. The conditions is crazy.” And this crazy dog-eat-dog world shaped Pete and his young cohorts. They saw the world through tinted lenses. They saw what they didn’t have and they decided that they would get it even if they had to rough it off.
“The surrounding neighborhoods are middle class,” Money says. “A lot of prefabricated houses, working class neighborhoods. It’s a big mix of people- white, black, Spanish.” And to the kids from the projects their richer neighbors provided opportunity. An opportunity to come up from the gutter. Either by robbing them or by selling them crack. It was all the same thing to Pete and his crew. They were young roughnecks and as Pete got older he grew more wild and bold. “At about seventeen I couldn’t take him,” his mother said. “I put him out. I sent him to George Wallace, his father’s friend, who I thought would guide him in the right direction and help me out.” But George Wallace, a friend of Pete’s father, had ties to the drug world himself and with his connections and Pete’s budding crew of youngsters, they proved to be a lethal combination in the Soundview/Castle Hill area of the Bronx and in time beyond that. The beginnings of Pistol Pete’s crew were coming together just like Wu-Tang, in a diverse and intoxicating manner.
This is an excerpt from the Sex, Money, Murder ebook available on amazon for $2.99