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John Yuknes dies; decorated NYPD detective made arrest in 1975 cop killings

John J. Yuknes is in uniform in 1975

John J. Yuknes is in uniform in 1975 when he was presented his second medal of valor for apprehending the murderer of Officer Andrew Glover and Sgt. Frederick Ready. Credit: Family Photo

John Yuknes believed that if you want to be recognized on the job, you don't seek recognition, you just do your job and do it right.

That was one of many life's lessons the retired New York City Police Department homicide detective lieutenant taught his son David Yuknes, 49, early on.

At 6-foot-3, John Yuknes had a commanding presence that exuded leadership and attracted admirers not only from his own peers but from the public as well, his son said.

Yuknes, a decorated detective, died Sept. 16 of natural causes surrounded by his children at a hospice in Newburgh, New York. He was 85.

Yuknes is best known for having made the highly publicized arrest of the man who in 1975 shot and killed NYPD Officer Andrew Glover, 34, of Manhattan, and Sgt. Frederick Reddy, 50, of Levittown, during a traffic stop on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

He was one of Manhattan's six homicide squad commanders at the time, and the killings happened in his zone. Yuknes is also known for devising a very risky plan to smoke out the suspect from his hiding place.

The suspect was known to have a hand grenade and one of the officer's service weapons. According to a book titled "Varnished Brass" by Barbara Gelb, Yuknes tracked the phone number to the suspect's hideout, pretended to be a lookout and warned the suspect to get out because police were zeroing in on him. The tactic was tricky but worked, and within minutes, Luis Serrano Velez, 27, exited the building and was apprehended by police eight days after he killed Glover and Reddy.

Yuknes was awarded an NYPD Medal of Valor for the 1975 capture and arrest of Serrano Velez. It would be the second one during his 30-year service with the NYPD.

John J. Yuknes was born on Feb. 25, 1930, to Lithuanian immigrants Joseph Mathius Juknevicius and Julia Repechka in Long Island City, Queens, where he attended elementary, middle and high school.

He graduated with an associate degree in criminal justice from John Jay College in 1977.

Yuknes was drafted into the Army in 1951 and during the Korean War was stationed in France, where he was a military policeman tasked to locate stolen military vehicles. He was discharged as a private first class and returned to Long Island City in 1953.

He married childhood sweetheart Teresa Lombardi in 1954. The couple moved in 1964 to Melville, where they raised four children. They were married nearly 43 years until 1997, when Teresa died of kidney cancer. Yunkes' son John J. Yunkes Jr., who also served with the NYPD, died in 2011 of heart failure.

When the elder Yuknes returned from the Army, he worked one week in construction and decided it was not what he wanted to do. So he applied for the NYPD, was accepted and became a patrolman by 1954, his son said.

By 1957, he was promoted to detective. In 1963 he became a sergeant, then a lieutenant in 1969.

"He moved quickly through the ranks," said David Yuknes of San Diego.

The concept of a homicide squad was born during Yuknes' time in the NYPD. Before that, each precinct was responsible for handling homicides. "He headed the first homicide squad," David Yuknes of San Diego said.

In 1984, Yuknes retired, sold a portion of the family's land in Melville and purchased 40 acres in Orange County, where he and his wife lived the rest of their retirement.

Yuknes became a farmer and spent his time growing tomato plants for the sheer pleasure of farming and not for profit, his son said.Other survivors include his daughters, Kim Yuknes, 58, of upstate Pine Island, and Karen Jaques, 54, of upstate Pine Bush; and a grandson.


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