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NLEOMF, Sicilian Officials to Commemorate 100-Year Anniversary of Death of Italian-American Police Legend

Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino was killed in Sicily in 1909 during a mission to break the Black Hand organized crime

October 6, 2009

Read our Blog, and view video and photos of the ceremony.

Washington, DC—Leaders of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the Director General for International Affairs for the Region of Sicily will gather at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Judiciary Square on Thursday, October 8, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the line-of-duty death of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino, a New York Police Department legend who was gunned down in Sicily in 1909 as he worked to gather intelligence on extortionists preying on New York’s Italian immigrants.

WHAT: Ceremony Commemorating the 100-Year Anniversary of the Death of NYPD Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino
Remarks, presentation of a wreath and etchings of Lieutenant Petrosino’s name on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
WHEN: October 8, 2009 - 11 AM
WHERE: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
400 Block of E Street, NW
Washington, DC
WHO: Robert Leonardi, Director General for International Affairs, Region of Sicily
NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd
NLEOMF Board members, staff and supporters

A native of Salerno, Sicily, Joseph Petrosino was 13 when his family immigrated to the United States in 1873. Ten years later, he joined the New York City Police Department and quickly became legendary within the NYPD and the community. He was an undercover officer fluent in many Italian dialects, the first Italian-American to lead the NYPD’s homicide division, and the first commander of the newly created “Italian Squad.” It was in this capacity that Lieutenant Petrosino waged a vigorous enforcement campaign against members of the Mano Nera, or Black Hand – criminals who were extorting money from businesses in New York’s growing Little Italy community.

Under his command, the Italian Squad made thousands of arrests, deported more than 500 criminals and helped to reduce crime against Italians by 50 percent. In early 1909, Lieutenant Petrosino embarked on a secret mission to Sicily to gather intelligence that he hoped would smash the Black Hand once and for all.

On March 12, 1909, Lieutenant Petrosino had planned to meet a man he thought was an informant. Instead, he was greeted by Mano Nera assassins who gunned him down. He remains the only NYPD officer ever to be killed outside the United States. When his body was returned to New York City, the funeral procession lasted five-and-one-half hours and was attended by a crowd of more than a quarter million.

In October 1991, the name of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino was formally dedicated on Panel 56-East, Line 7, of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.

Contact: Kevin Morison
202-737-7134 -- kevin@nleomf.org