Good Morning
Good Morning
Long Island

Cop's shooting death recalls 1975 tragedy

Nassau County Police Officer Matthew Giglio was killed

Nassau County Police Officer Matthew Giglio was killed in 1975; the last time a Nassau County police officer died from being criminally shot in the line of duty. Credit: handout

A young Nassau cop is cut down by a shooter's surprise gunfire.

A manhunt ends hours later with the ex-convict gunman's capture.

Fury and grief tear through the police department as it mourns the dead officer.

The year was 1975, the last time a Nassau County police officer died from being criminally shot in the line of duty. He was Matthew Giglio, the 24th on the Nassau force to die in the line of duty since the department was founded in 1925.

History repeated itself last week.

On Tuesday, Officer Arthur Lopez, 29, of Babylon Village, became the 33rd to pay the ultimate price on the job, when an ex-con named Darrell Fuller, 33, allegedly opened fire on him in Bellerose Terrace, near the Nassau-Queens border, then fled as the cop lay bleeding on the ground. Fuller, on parole for attempted murder, was captured hours later and is now jailed without bail.

Nassau officers dying of criminals' gunfire is unusual. Most Nassau officers killed in the line of duty were in crashes or were struck by vehicles.

In Lopez's case, the eight-year veteran was pronounced dead 24 minutes after he was shot.

Giglio's demise was prolonged: He lay hospitalized for 10 weeks, jaundiced, suffering from a ruptured colon, punctured aorta and amputated leg before lapsing into a coma from which he never awoke.

Giglio, on the force for 11 years, could breathe only with a respirator. He couldn't speak. So he wrote notes.

"Why me?" he scribbled in one.

"Who shot me?" another note said.

Ex-convict John MacKenzie, a petty thief, shot Giglio, 35, who was responding to a burglary call on Oct. 7, 1975, at a West Hempstead boutique.

Within hours of the shooting, MacKenzie, then of Whitestone, Queens, was arrested and later confessed he'd shot someone, but denied he knew the victim was a policeman.

Hundreds of mourners, including officers from agencies across the region, poured into a Hewlett church for Giglio's police funeral that December with a color guard, honorary pallbearers, and a drum and bugle corps.

"Just that he got involved in this thing shows what kind of man he was," Giglio's commanding officer told Newsday on the day of the slain cop's wake.

"Such a nice boy, such a good boy," Giglio's aunt said with a sigh. His mother cried.

MacKenzie wept in contrition during a 2008 jailhouse interview with Newsday upstate at the medium-security Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where he remains imprisoned. He said he barely remembers pulling the trigger -- if he does remember at all -- because he was on drugs at the time. Nevertheless, he said he accepts responsibility for the slaying.

MacKenzie's blond mane and swagger have faded. The 66-year-old is wracked with guilt and sorrow and prostate and gallbladder trouble.

Asked about the Giglio children's pleas that he be kept locked up forever -- because, they say, their father is gone forever -- MacKenzie said: "If it was my father or my family member, I'd probably feel exactly the same way, and I don't fault them."

MacKenzie has done 37 years of a 25-years-to-life prison sentence. He has a spotless disciplinary record, has done good deeds and earned degrees in prison. He says that shows he's rehabilitated. But the parole board has denied him release a half-dozen times.

Every two years since MacKenzie became eligible in 2000, Giglio's union, the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, has rallied with Giglio's three adult children to fight MacKenzie's release.

The man leading this year's rally was union president James Carver -- the same James Carver who stood in front of District Court in Hempstead after Darrell Fuller's arraignment Thursday demanding that he "rot in hell" and "never see the light of day again."

In December, according to a state prison system spokeswoman, yet another parole board is set to rule whether MacKenzie will see the light of day.

Latest Long Island News