Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Pelham Manor Police Chief Died in 1936 from Service-Related Gunshots

It is common knowledge that over the last two centuries those who have served (and serve today) as members of the various police forces that have protected the residents of the various villages of the Town of Pelham including the Town Constables have put their lives on the line in service to the public.  Sadly, there have been numerous occasions where our men in blue have been shot in the line of duty.

I have written about two such occasions.  The first involved the killing of Pelham Manor Patrolman John McGuire in 1917 by a gunman who was never caught.  See Wed., Aug. 09, 2006:  The Saddest Day in the History of Pelham Manor's "Toonerville Trolley."  Recently I wrote about Pelham Manor Police Officer A. D. Savage who was wounded on Witherbee Avenue on December 21, 1909 during a gun battle after surprising armed burglars in the act of burglarizing a residence at the corner of Witherbee and Highbrook Avenues.  See Wed., Apr. 30, 2014:  Gun Battle on Witherbee Avenue in 1904 Results in Wounded Pelham Manor Police Officer.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting details the shooting of Police Sergeant Michael J. Grady on December 22, 1931. That evening he suffered three bullet wounds inflicted by a gunman whom he stopped to question at Pelhamdale Avenue and Manor Lane about 10:30 p.m.  Three men a short time before had held up a gasoline station at Boston Post Road and Weyman Avenue in New Rochelle.  Sergeant Grady was able to return fire.  A coat later found that was believed to belong to the gunman had several bullet holes in it.

Sergeant Grady recovered, but suffered mightily from his wounds.  Surgeons were unable to remove two of the bullets that had lodged near Grady's vital organs.  Grady later became Pelham Manor Police Chief but never fully recovered from his wounds.  He ailed at intervals throughout his service as a result.  

On Monday, December 28, 1936, Chief Grady did not feel well and called in sick.  A physician saw him that morning and sent him to bed.  His wife later found him dead in his bed from a coronary thrombosis, believed to have resulted from his wounds more than four years earlier.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog includes an image of Chief Grady and transcribed text from an article announcing Chief Grady's death.  It also includes another article about his shooting.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"The Late Chief MICHAEL J. GRADY"
The Pelham Sun, Dec. 29, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 39, p. 1, cols. 1-8. 

Wife Finds Pelham Manor Police Chief Dead In Bed
Chief Grady Had Been Ailing at Intervals Ever Since He Was Shot by Gunman Five Years Ago and Physicians Were Unable to Extract Two Bullets Which Had Lodged Near Vital Spots. -- Funeral on Thursday Morning.

Chief of Police Michael Joseph Grady, 37, who has been at the head of the Pelham Manor Police Department since March 12, 1934, died suddenly in his apartment at No. 908 Edgewood avenue on Monday morning.  Death which was caused by a coronary thrombosis, overtook the police chief in his sleep.  The body was found by his wife, Mrs. Virginia Grady.  She had summoned a physician earlier.

Chief Grady, who was apparently in good health until the day before his death, complained of illness at about 7:30 o'clock on Monday morning.  He telephoned to police headquarters reporting himself off duty for the day.  Desk Officer Michael Spillane entered the report.

A short while later Chief Grady's condition became worse and his family physician, Dr. H. K. Marks of New Rochelle, who had been treating Chief Grady for a minor ailment, was summoned.  

According to Dr. Marks, his examination at 9:45 o'clock showed that Chief Grady had a 'fast heart' but that his condition was otherwise good.  Dr. Marks ordered the patient to bed, prescribing complete rest.

Mrs. Grady went to her husband's bedroom at 11:30 o'clock and found him apparently dead.  She telephoned to police headquarters, and Dr. A. C. McGuire, of Pelham Manor, who happened to be at the village hall when the call was received, responded to her call.  Examination showed that Chief Grady had been dead about an hour and a half.

Dr. McGuire notified County Medical Examiner Dr. Amos O. Squire, and permission was given to move the body to the mortuary of Brunner-Sullivan on Fifth avenue, North Pelham.

Chief Grady had an excellent record for courageous police duty.  As a patrolman he was instrumental in bringing to justice many criminals, and his efficiency won promotion to the sergeant.

He was seriously wounded on the night of Dec. 22, 1931, when on patrol in a police car.  Philip Gargan, who was chief at the tiime was in the police car with Grady.  They saw a stranger on Pelhamdale avenue near Witherbee avenue, who answered to the description broadcast a few hours earlier, of a gun-

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man wanted in connection with a gasoline station robbery in New Rochelle.  Grady, who was driving, stopped the car, got out and went to challenge the stranger.  Before any words were spoken the man whipped out a revolver and fired three shots at Grady at close range.  All three shots found their mark in the officer's body.  Before Chief Gargan could get out of the car the gunman had bolted into the darkness.  Before losing consciousness Grady returned fire, but the man escaped.  Later, an overcoat with bullet holes in the shoulder was found a short distance away from the scene of the shooting.  The gunman, however, was never apprehended.

Grady remained in critical condition for several days, but finally rallied.  Only one of the bullets was removed.  On his return to duty he was commended for his bravery and Mayor Lawrence F. Sherman presented him with a medal obn behalf of the people of Pelham Manor.  

Since his return to duty Grady suffered several attacks of pneumonia, and at times was subject to great pain, which is believed to have been caused by the two bullets which remained in his body.

Chief Grady was born at Hastings, N. Y., the son of William and Katherine Grady.  He was bred in police tradition.  His father was for many years a member of the police force at Hastings, and is now secretary of the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association.  Michael worked as a chauffeur before being appointed to the Pelham Manor police department as patrolman on June 12, 1922.  He was an efficient officer and was promoted to sergeant on May 10, 1926.  At the retirement of Chief of Police Gargan in 1933, Grady took the examination for chief and passed with a high average.  He was appointed chief on March 12, 1934.  

Chief Grady had a host of friends among prominent men in the public eye.  As a committeeman for affairs of the Westchester County Benevolent Association he had contact with many of the leading figures in the field of entertainment and sports.  In June, 1934, when Chief Grady was guest of honor at a testimonial banquet held at the Travers Island clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club, many of the leading figures on Broadway attended to pay tribute to him.  They included Jack Dempsey, Max Baer, Benny Fields, and several others.

Requiem Mass will be read at St. Catherine's Church on Second avenue, North Pelham, at 10 o'clock on Thursday morning.  Interment will be at the Mount Hope Cemetery.

The Body of the late chief of police has been reposing at the Brunner-Sullivan mortuary, 128 Fifth avenue, North Pelham.  Many police officials and patrolmen from Westchester County villages and towns have visited the mortuary to pay their last respects to Chief Grady."

Source:  MICHAEL J. GRADY, 37, POLICE CHIEF, DIES, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 29, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 39, p. 1, cols. 1-8 & p. 4, col. 2.  

Pelham Manor Police Officer Wounded As He Stops Prowler On Night Patrol
Officer in New Rochelle Hospital in Serious Condition; Bullet Riddled Overcoat Found Near Scene Leads Police to Believe That Gunman Was Also Wounded by Grady or Chief Gargan.

Sergt. Michael J. Grady of the Pelham Manor police force, lies in serious condition in New Rochelle Hospital, suffering from three bullet wounds inflicted by a gunman whom he stopped to question last night at Pelhamdale avenue and Manor lane about 10:30 o'clock.  Three men had a short time previously held up a gasoline station at Boston Post road and Weyman avenue there, and escaped in the direction of Pelham Manor.

At press time the gunman had not yet been captured although the dragnet which was hurriedly thrown out by Chief Philip Gargan continued to entangle suspects throughout the night.  The suspect described as being white, about five feet seven or eight inches tall, weighing about 140 to 150 pounds and wearing a light colored cap.

A dark blue overcoat with four bullet holes in the back which was found in the vicinity, led the police to believe that the gunman was wounded by shots fired at him as he fled.  Eight 32-calibre, steel-jacketed bullets were found in the pocket.  This evidence is held by Chief Gargan to be almost positive proof that it was worn by the man who shot Grady.  The theory is that he discarded the coat in order to faclitate his flight.

Grady was wounded in a struggle with the criminal, believed by police to have been one of a trio which had held up a gasoline station in New Rochelle a short time previous.  The Sergeant and Chief Gargan were patrolling the village in the department car when they noticed the man walking along Pelhamdale avenue towards North Pelham.  

They stopped him for questioning and searched him.  A large 

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amount of cash in small change was in a pocket of his coat.  Grady charged him with being one of the wanted holdup men whereupon the prison [sic] drew a pistol and in a tussel with Grady shot him three times as Chief Gargan was coming around from the other side of the car.  He then fled up a driveway with Chief Gargan in pursuit.  The Chief pursued the man to the back of the house and across two back yards, firing as he ran.  The gunman then sprinted towards the street passing near Grady, who though bleeding profusely from his wounds raised himself to his knees and fired four shots at the man.  The fugitive dashed across the street and escaped in the darkness behind the home of Francis E. Drake of No. 460 Pelhamdale avenue.  

Three Pelham Memorial high school students, Frank Nolan, Jr., of No. 119 Third avenue, North Pelham; Raymond Lahey of Witherbee avenue, Pelham Manor and Jack Nathan of No. 214 Young avenue, Pelhamwood, who were attending a party at the Drake home, were attracted by the shots and rushed into the street.  Chief Gargan called to them that Grady was badly hurt and told them to take him to the hospital in the police car.  In the meantime the Chief telephoned to headquarters and ordered an alarm broadcast for the gunman.

Some time later, as patrolmen and officers combed the vicinity, the bullet-riddled overcoat was found by Patrolman Edward Finnan in the backyard of the home of John Prentice, No. 443 Highbrook avenue, in the direction of which the gunman was last seen. 

Chief Gargan is convinced that the man who shot Sergeant Grady is one of a trio who held up and robbed Vincent Christoff, attendant at a gasoline station located at Boston road and Woodside park, New Rochelle, just over the Manor line.  One of this trio escaped in an automobile while the other two fled on foot across the Pelham Country Club golf course.

The Chief believes that the pair who fled on foot after the holdup separated and that when he and Sergeant Grady stopped the man for questioning, he shot rather than be captured.

All night long, Manor police led by Chief Philip Gargan, accompanied for several hours by Mayor Lawrence F. Sherma, combed the vicinity of the shooting in the belief that the gunman was lying in bushes on some lawn, mortally wounded.  At regular intervals members of the Manor department brought into headquarters for questioning, strangers who had been loitering about the village.  

Sgt. Grady joined the Pelham Manor police department in 1922.  He served as a motorcycle offier for a year.  In 1925 he suffered a broken leg when his motorcycle was rammed by a speeder as he was taking the offender to the Village Hall.

He was promoted to Sergeant in 1925.  He has an excellent record.  He is expert in the use of firearms, and was recently awarded the grade of expert for proficiency on the target range.  

He is married and has three children.  He makes his home at No. 33 St. Joseph's street, New Rochelle.  

His father, William Grady, is secretary of the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association.  His brother William Grady, Jr., is a member of the Pelham Heights police department."

Source:  SGT. GRADY IS SHOT BY GUNMAN, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 23, 1931, Vol. 22, No. 40, p. 1, cols. 1-8 & p. 5, cols. 1-3.   

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