The shooting of two Irish American NYPD police officers in recent weeks highlights once again what a dangerous career it is protecting the public.

Irish Americans have been heroes as long as NYPD has been around. From their archives and the present day, we pick nine boys in blue and one girl in blue, some injured, and some who made the ultimate sacrifice, to keep their fellow citizens safe.

Edward R. Byrne

Early in 1988, New York City, like many other cities, was in the midst of a drug war that seemed out of control. Civilians who stood in the way of drug dealers were verbally threatened, physically attacked, or even killed. There seemed no way to unite the public and police and reverse this drug problem. This would all change on February 26th, 1988.

In the early morning hours, Rookie Police Officer Edward Byrne, newly assigned to the 103rd Precinct, was sitting in an RMP on the corner of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street. He was there guarding the house of a family who had defied the drug dealers and agreed to testify against them.

At approximately 3:30 am, four armed men crept up on both sides of Officer Byrne's RMP. One of the suspects knocked on the passenger window to distract him as the second suspect ran up to the driver's side window. Without uttering a word, he opened fire into the car, striking Officer Byrne in the head five times. Two additional suspects served as lookouts. All four men fled the scene, but six days later were captured and eventually sentenced to 25 years to life. The four suspects were members of a gang who were instructed to kill a police officer. Prosecutors have charged that the officer's execution was ordered by jailed drug kingpin Howard Mason.

Officer Byrne was rushed to Mary Immaculate Hospital where he died of his wounds. He was 22 years old.

This cowardly and brazen criminal act was the catalyst that united the Police Department and communities to work together and find a solution to the drug problem. As a result of Officer Byrne's death, units such as TNT (Tactical Narcotics Team) and S.N.E.U. (Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit) were created, along with the expansion of other Narcotics Units, some of which are still in existence today.

In honor of Police Office Edward Byrne, 91st Avenue was renamed "P.O. Edward R. Byrne Avenue." 

Stephen Driscoll

On September 11, 2001, P.O. Stephen P. Driscoll made the supreme sacrifice during the World Trade Center attack in New York City, so that complete strangers may live.

Stephen was born on July 4, 1963, and raised in Bronx County, NY, attending Saint Agnes High School. He served in the United States Navy from 1981- 1985 as a Seabee Construction Mechanic.

He later was employed by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and the Metro North Railroad Company. He was appointed as a Police Officer in the New York City Police Department on January 13, 1992.

Stephen served in the Midtown South Precinct, and the Disorder Control Unit. On January 16, 1996 he was transferred to the Street Crime Unit. On February 9, 1998 he was transferred to the Emergency Services Squad # 4. Stephen was a member of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe Band Color Guard, the NYPD Holy Name Society, the NYPD US Navy Association, the NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, and a past Volunteer Fireman in the Croton on Hudson, N.Y. Fire Department.

Stephen was a Trustee with the New York State Shields, and the Lake Carmel, N.Y. Community Center. On November 11, 2001 the Lake Carmel, NY Community Center dedicated Driscoll Hall. On November 27, 2001 the Shields renamed our Medal of Valor, as the P.O. Stephen P. Driscoll Medal of Valor, to honor his memory. On October 17, 2002 the NYPD Navy Association presented the first annual Stephen P. Driscoll award. In 2003 the New York State Fraternal Order of Police formed the Stephen P. Driscoll Memorial Lodge.

Stephen is survived by his parents Patrick and Letitia, his wife Ann, son Barry, siblings, Gail, Sheila, Jeanne, Michelle, and Michael, and mother-in-law Helene, brother-in-laws, Billy (ret. FDNY), John (NYPD Sgt.), Joe (NYS Corrections Officer), sister-in-law Keri, and many nieces and nephews.

Stephen Driscoll was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the Annual Medal Day ceremony on December 4, 2001. The New York City Police Department Medal of Honor is the highest award that may be bestowed upon a member of the service. 

Steven MacDonald

Steven McDonald is a NYPD detective who was shot on July 12, 1986. The shooting left him quadriplegic. He is the most seriously injured New York City Police officer to survive his injury.

McDonald was shot three times in the line of duty by 15-year-old Shavod Jones (1971–1995) whom he was questioning about bicycle thefts in Central Park.

Detective McDonald and a co-worker were on patrol in Central Park, because there had been reports of mischief in the area. Three young boys between the age of 13 and 15, who looked suspicious, started running away when the two police officers went towards them. They split up, and McDonald found them hiding in some bushes. He started to question them, and noticed something in the sock of one of the boys and when he wanted to see what it was, he was shot and nearly killed.The first of the three bullets that hit Steven McDonald hit him in the head, above his eye. The second hit his throat which caused him to have a speaking disability and the third shattered his spine, paralyzing him from the neck down and leaving him quadriplegic.

Jones served nine years in prison for the shooting, and was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 9, 1995, three days after his release on parole. Earlier, Jones called Detective Steven McDonald to apologize, but the two never met in person after the incident.

During McDonald's recovery in Bellevue Hospital, he met Father Mychal Judge, who became a close friend to him, his wife Patti Ann and son Conor. McDonald formally identified Judge's body on the evening of September 11, 2001.

He has become a noted public speaker, notably on behalf of the NYPD, peace initiatives in Northern Ireland, the US Navy (he was a hospital corpsman) and speaking with students about violence and forgiveness.

Moira Smith

On 11th September2001, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, Officer Smith had seen the attack from miles away at the 13th Precinct station house on East 21st St. “She could have done 100 important tasks there and no one would have questioned her courage and dedication,” he added. “But she wanted to be where she could make the most difference.”

She gathered together a group of officers, including Police Officer Robert Fazio, who also died on that day, and headed to the World Trade Center. For her efforts on September 11th, Smith, the only female NYPD officer to die in the attacks, was posthumously awarded the department's highest accolade, the Medal of Honor.

Moira Smith is honored with "P.O. Moira Smith Way", which is located at 74th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Brooklyn. 

Kevin Herlihy

Detective Kevin Herlihy was shot in the arm on St. Valentine’s Day this year. He was in pursuit of a suspect in the 145th Street subway station.

Herlihy and his fellow officers were following  Michael McBride (52) when he opened fire. Despite being shot in the arm Herlihy managed to shot the suspect in the chest killing him.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the press McBride was a paroled felon. He had visited his girlfriend’s home earlier in the week where he argued with her 25-year-old daughter. McBride shot her in the head and fled the scene.

Kelly Det. Herlihy’s bravery. He said “He not only survived but was able to stop his assailant from shooting anyone else. I want to thank the doctors and staff here for their excellent care of Detective Herlihy and for their dedication to the community at large.”

Kevin Brennan

Plain clothes officer Kevin Brennan, 29, was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range on 31st January 2011 after a shoot out at a Brooklyn housing project.

The shootout began when Brennan and two other cops responded to a man with a gun call. Luis “Baby” Ortiz ran off and was pursued by Brennan who was shot in the back of the head.

He was brought to hospital where the bullet was removed from his head in the Emergency Room.

After ten days in hospital Brennan was miraculously well enough to return to his home in Long Island to join his wife and two-month-old daughter, Maeve.

Ray Kelly said “This is a great story…This young man gave his all, we see in the film where he tackles this individual [who] has a gun in his hand. He knew, he saw the gun. And yet he went right at him and grabbed him, and he was shot at point blank range, and it truly is a miracle that he survived."

Anthony Dwyer

Officer Dwyer was killed when he was pushed from a rooftop during a struggle with a suspect. He and other officers had responded to a robbery at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in Times Square.

Officer Dwyer chased one of the suspects to the roof of the building where the suspect pushed him off of the roof into an airshaft. He did not die immediately. He was jammed in a confined space between buildings where he could hardly breathe. He had a compound fracture and ruptured internal organs. He was leaning on the speaker button of his radio and everyone working could hear his agony. ESU responded to the scene and attempted to dig through the wall to get to him.

The suspect Eddie Matos was apprehended and sentenced to 25 years to life.
Officer Dwyer had been on the police force for a year and a half and was assigned to Midtown South. He was 23 years old.

Francis Hennessy

Police Officer Francis Hennessy, a 35-year-old Brooklyn cop collapsed while responding to an unfounded report of a man with a gun died of a brain aneurysm.

Francis Hennessy, an Irish national and an NYPD cop for eight years, died at Downstate Medical Center, less than 15 hours after he was hospitalized the previous night when responding to a call of an armed man in the Flatbush section.

A spokesman for the city's medical examiner said the cause of death was a "ruptured brain aneurysm," a genetic condition in which a bulge in a vessel creates intra-cranial pressure upon bursting.

Hennessy, a scooter cop assigned to the 70th Precinct, had 75 arrests in his career.
He became ill after responding with two other cops to a report at 9:30 pm of a man with a gun, collapsing after emerging from a radio patrol car.

Other officers tried to save his life, performing CPR upon him and he was taken to Kings County Hospital before being transferred to Downstate.  He was initially believed to have suffered two separate heart attacks.

An eight-year veteran of the force, Hennessy received three departmental commendations for excellence on duty during his career, police said. He was married with two children. He joined the police force in 1997.      

Joseph McCormack

On September 29, 1983, NYPD Emergency Service Units responded to a call of an emotionally disturbed person armed with a weapon at 1639 Mulford Avenue, Bronx, in the 45th precinct. On arrival at the scene, they were informed by patrol units that a male was barricaded in the residence and armed with a shotgun.

Emergency Service Units secured the area and members took up tactical positions around the house. Negotiations by telephone and bull horn commenced and continued for approximately three and one half hours.

Police Officer Joseph McCormack, Emergency Service Squad 2, had returned to quarters after a court appearance. Learning that the members of the squad were on a "confirmed barricade" assignment in the Bronx, he responded to the job.

McCormack was assigned to a position in the rear yard to provide protective cover for the Hostage Negotiation Team that was at the back door attempting to persuade the individual to surrender. The man exited the rear door onto an elevated porch. The Emotionally Disturbed Person shouldered his weapon and fired at Police Officer McCormack. Officer McCormack was struck by the round and although injured, returned fire at the perpetrator before he, himself, went down. Police Officer DavidSchultheis also returned fire striking the emotionally disturbed man who later was pronounced at a local hospital. This, in effect, ended the incident and prevented anyone else from being injured by the deranged armed EDP. Police Officer Joseph McCormack was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Officer McCormack had been with the NYPD for 15 years. He left behind a wife and three children.


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