FBI Agent Helping To “Save” Children of Newburgh

Agent trades his badge and gun for a whistle and basketball

Newburgh has one of New York's highest crime rates. Gang members with the Bloods and Latin Kings are believed behind dozens of shootings and many of the 11 homicides over the last year in this city of 80,000.

FBI supervisory agent James Gagliano said Newburgh again "led the state in per capita homicides." 

Gagliano has been busy heading up a law enforcement task force to lock-up dozens of suspected gang members.  But he also devotes much of his free time to helping the children of Newburgh.

Three times a week, Gagliano leaves his gun and badge behind and helps coach basketball and athletic programs for the children of Newburgh.  At times, he takes kids to the book store.  Other times, he helps with homework or takes a child out to lunch.

Unique Hicks, 7, who attends the program, said "he even bought me some sneakers."

By the dozens, eager children turn out at the Boys and Girls Club to learn from him. Kevin White runs the Boys and Girls Club.   

"The kids know that he cares," White said.  "He does what he says he is going to do and he hasn't let them down yet.  And I think they see that and they turn out for him.

On a recent Wednesday night, dozens of children lined the gym for two hours of activities led by 'Coach Jim."   His booming voice barking out direction, his whistle starting and stopping drills, eager children running and smiling - forgetting about the street violence that lurks on the streets outside.

Although he lives several towns away, Gagliano leaves his own family many nights and weekends to help out here.

This former military man was modest about his 11 years of volunteering here and with other Newburgh programs.

"You spend 5 minutes around these young kids you'll understand," Gagliano said. "I get far more from them than they can possibly get out of me."

Running drills, teaching lessons, coaching games, Gagliano volunteers his time to help children - some who have seen siblings shot and killed.  Others have fathers who have been sent to prison.

"There far more we have been able to prevent before getting to that point and hopefully made a difference," Gagliano said.

On his desk at the FBI office, Gagliano keeps a photo of Jeffrey Zachary.  Zachary played basketball at the gym until he was cut down by a bullet in a case of mistaken identity.

"I knew him.  I knew his family," Gagliano said. 

 Reminders too hang on the wall of his office of some of the kids he coached but still turned to a life of crime.  A handful of the suspected gang members he has arrested over the years turned out to be some of ths kids he once coached. 

 Along his FBI office are also photos of the many successes: teams he coached to a championship or teens who went on to college.  

 At the end of a day chasing criminals, this FBI agent changes and rushed out to coach the children.  Doing his best to help these children,

Gagliano said,"People always say to me you can't save them all.  I'm not trying to.  I'm just trying to save the ones who call me coach."

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