Some terrible crimes take a long time to solve. The murder of NYPD Lieutenant Joe Petroscino 100 years ago in Italy remained unsolved for 100 years when suddenly the mystery of who murdered him was made clear.
Joe Petroscinowas the very first Italian speaker to join the NYPD in October 1883. His abilty to solve crimes in the Italian community soon marked him out as someone special.
He became friendly with the Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt who rapidly promoted him to head the NYPD’s homicide division. And then he was promoted again to be in charge of an elite squad of Italian American detectives dedicated to stopping the influence of the mafia in NYC.
He successfully stopped an attempt to blackmail the tenor Enrico Caruso and warned Federal officials that there was a plot to assasinate Preseident William McKinley on a trip to Buffalo. His warning was ignored, Mckinley was assassinated and his friend Theodore Roosevelt was catapulted into the Presidency.
Then Petroscino went on a to secret mission to Palermo, Sicily to collect evidence on NYC based mafia members so they could be deported.
However the current Police commissioner Theodore A. Bingham released a news story about the mission and Petroscino was then killed in 1909 by the mafia shortly after he arrived.
The shock and horror at his untimely death was huge in NYC and 250,000 people turned out for his funeral. However his murderer was never found.
However 100 years later Italian cops arrested 95 suspected mafia members, one of whom was caught on tape boasting that the uncle of his father, one Paolo Palazzotto, killed Petrosino on behalf of mafia strongman Vito Cascio Ferro. And suddenly the long standing mystery was solved.
Petroscino’s grave is in Queen’s Calvary Cemetery and there is a square named after him, fittingly sited at the junction of Little Italy, Bowery, Chiantown and SoHo. And he continues to be celebrated as a brave NYPD officer who fell in the line of duty