November 28, 2011

USA: Veteran NYPD detective who beat cancer makes last bust before retirement

NEW YORK, NY/ New York Daily News / Crime / November 27, 2011

Nelson Dones, 57, set to retire

By Joe Kemp
New York Daily News

Det. Nelson Dones, 57, made last bust before retirement on Tuesday

A veteran city cop who came back to the force after a tough bout with cancer made one last collar in the Times Square subway station before he retires on Tuesday, police said.

Nelson Dones, 57 — a first-grade detective working with the anti-crime unit for the Transit Manhattan Task Force — helped bust an iPhone thief during an undercover sting operation on the N/Q/R subway platform on Saturday, cops said.

“This is a fitting culmination of an outstanding career,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Dones and his team were monitoring an undercover detective posing as a straphanger when the bandit swiped the decoy’s iPhone from a backpack pocket about 6 p.m., police said.

As soon as the suspect, Fernando Francis, 26, put the smartphone in the front pocket of his red hoodie, the team of cops swooped in and arrested him, police said.

“More than likely, it is my last collar,” said Dones, a 31-year veteran. “I chose to be active on my last day [on patrol\].”

Francis — who has prior arrests for assault, criminal contempt and weapons possession — was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, cops said.

The NYPD has bolstered the decoy program in recent weeks to combat the spike in subway larcenies, which were up 24% in mid-November. Police believe the uptick is due to the increased use of electronic gadgets by straphangers.

Dones has taken part in more than 100 undercover operations, he said.

“I was very proactive my whole career,” he said. “To end it with an arrest is like putting icing on the cake.”

Dones was diagnosed in 2000 with stage IV lymphoma. The cancer had spread from his lymph nodes to his bone marrow. He survived after a bone marrow transplant from his brother.

He returned to duty in 2005 as a Field Training Officer to mentor young cops, and was later honored in 2010 with the Theodore Roosevelt Award for Continued Service After Severe Medical Hardship.

But he never gave coming back to the force a second thought.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do it after battling cancer,” Dones said.

jkemp@nydailynews.com

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