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‘Forgotten’ NYPD officers hailed as heroes

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner O’Neill Salute Brave Cops

November 30, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Patrolman Bryan L. O’Donnell. Eagle file photo
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Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and members of NYPD from throughout the five boroughs gathered on Wednesday, Nov. 29, for a ceremony that was held at Police Headquarters to honor 18 hero cops who never received the recognition they deserved. Stretching back 150 years, the brave public servants all sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.  

According to a report in the New York Post, the earliest casualty was John Branagan, who died in 1869, and the most recent was William Martin, who lost his life on April 2011 when he succumbed to injuries he had suffered 30 years earlier when he was assaulted in a Lower East Side subway station.

The Post quotes a high-ranking police source stating, “These were officers who were killed in unusual circumstances: off duty, shot by another officer accidentally or killed by accidents.”

Five of the officers honored were from Brooklyn.  

Among them was 42-year-old Patrolman John Branagan, who died on Aug. 10, 1869, of injuries he received while on his post: assisting with backing out a horse drawn lumber truck from the Hamilton Ferry yard, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website. As the truck was backing out, the horses changed direction, causing the load of lumber to fall from the truck onto Branagan. He was severely injured and died shortly after from his injuries. Branagan had served with NYPD for 12 1/2 years and was survived by his wife and four children.

Brooklyn Traffic Squad member Tom Gallagher died on Feb. 8, 1907, from injuries he’d suffered six months earlier.  As reported in the Brooklyn Eagle on Sept. 9, 1906, Gallagher “fell under Engine 105 some weeks ago when he was trying to keep a crowd out of the way of the on-driving wheels. He was on duty on Fulton Street, near the trolley transfer point on Myrtle Avenue at the time, and when he was tumbled under the huge fire engine everybody who looked on thought it was the last of him. He was picked up shockingly mangled, for both of the wheels on one side of the engine had passed over him and the bones of one of his legs were crushed as if they had passed through a coffee grinder.” As a result, the doctors at Brooklyn Hospital had to amputate Gallagher’s leg as he underwent months of operations before he succumbed to his injuries.

Eleven-year NYPD veteran Charles Berberich died on Nov. 15, 1908 and his obituary appeared the following day in the Eagle. “In attempting to save a woman and two children from stepping on live wire that coiled along the ground … Berberich, who lived with his wife and child at 7 Windsor Place, and who was attached to the Parkville station, came in contact with the wire himself … and was instantly killed.” Berberich was 40 years old when he was electrocuted while on duty.

Patrolman Bryan L. O’Donnell, who died on June 11, 1916, had his obituary appear in the June 12 issue of the Eagle. “Patrolman Bryan L. O’Donnell of the Fort Hamilton station, who, during his eight years of service in the Police Department in Brooklyn made a splendid record of heroism and service, died today in the Holy Family Hospital, from injuries received last Friday in the discharge of his duty. O’Donnell’s death was caused by a fall from a fire escape of the Bay Ridge High School, as he was entering the building in search for two men, who, according to neighbors, had broken into the school. At the second floor he lost his balance, and plunging through a skylight, fell to a court below, suffering a fracture of the skull.” O’Donnell had been assigned to the 71st Precinct.

Traffic cop Gustave August Boettger Jr. was on mounted patrol when a horse pulling a wagon lost control and tried to gallop away, according to the Post. Boettger followed the horse and wagon down Fulton Street trying to rescue the passenger in the wagon. A vehicle drove in front of Boettger and he fell off his own horse and was struck by another vehicle. He suffered a fractured skull but still refused to give up the chase. He joined forces with another cop who managed to stop the horse. On May 12, 1911, the Eagle wrote, “Patrolman Gustave Boettger of the Brooklyn traffic squad, may get the medal of the Automobile of America for bravery in stopping a runaway horse on Fulton Street.” Boettger never fully recovered from his injuries and died on July 13, 1922.


The other officers honored for their valor and heroism are:

William Martin (April 9, 2011), John Hoey (Oct. 4, 1901), Dennis Shea (Nov. 4, 1902), Lt. Daniel C. O’Connor (March 14, 1974), George M. Yaeger (July 3, 1905) and George Dapping (Sept. 24, 1915), all from Manhattan.

George Caccavale (June 26, 1976), Detective Charles Cameron (July 17, 1904), Sgt. Thomas F.X. O’Grady (Aug. 24, 1916), Martin Maloney (Sept. 18, 1921) and Gerard Apuzzi Jr. (May 4, 1969), all from Queens.

And William H. Galbraith (Nov. 8, 1911), from the Bronx, and John W. McCormick (July 9, 1910), from Westchester.

The names of all 18 cops will be added to the Hall of Heroes memorial wall at One Police Plaza.


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