By Patrick Markey
By some accounts, David Delaney was one of the good guys, a gentleman who kept to himself. A Dublin native from the Stonybatter area, Delaney had spent most of the last decade plying the bar trade in the watering holes of Inwood, a gritty northern Manhattan outpost for an older Irish America.
Acquaintances say Delaney always had a smile for the regulars, occasionally helping out with clues to newspaper crosswords and chatting with local store owners near his Broadway apartment as he picked up cigarettes and a daily sandwich on his way to work.
Last week in the early hours of Tuesday morning Delaney was shot to death as he worked alone in the Liffy II Bar near Broadway and 213th Street. But as New York detectives pieced together their homicide case, Irish authorities revealed another chapter in Delaney's life they said he had left behind in Ireland.
No sooner had word of his death sped across the Atlantic when charges surfaced that Delaney had been a fugitive and gardai held a warrant against him for skipping bail twice on a charge of sexual assault against a minor 10 years ago.
On Sunday night, Delaney's two brothers flew back to Ireland with his body for a service in Dublin, leaving behind not only an unsolved New York homicide, but also a neighborhood struggling with disbelief at the charges leveled at one of their own.
According to police, Delaney, 41 and single, was working alone in the Liffy II on Tuesday, March 28, at around 12:30 a.m. when one or more assailants entered the bar and shot him at numerous times in the head and upper body. A local man who had stopped in for a quick drink found Delaney sprawled near the bar's doorway and ran across Broadway to call help from the Irish Eyes bar.
Delaney was pronounced dead at Allen Pavilion Hospital shortly after he was discovered. Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's office, said he died from gunshot wounds that perforated his lung and liver and fractured his skull.
After Delaney mentioned a man's name in his dying moments, detectives took one local in for questioning, but released him without charge soon after, according to one police source familiar with the investigation. Late last week detectives were still questioning one witness about inconsistencies in his story, the source said.
But by Tuesday no arrests had been made and investigators were still exploring a number of theories.
"It's an unknown motive at this time, but we're keeping every angle open on this one," said one 34th Precinct detective involved in the case.
Detectives have contacted gardai about the Delaney's outstanding warrant in Ireland and they have not dismissed the possibility the killing could have been a revenge attack for that incident.
Delaney had been arrested for illegal gambling in January and received a community-service sentence. Investigators are looking into the theory the shooting may have been related to a gambling operation or outstanding debts.
Police said Delaney had cash on his person and the bar's cash register was full, but no money had been taken. The only items missing were a few bottles of liquor. The detective said that makes robbery an unlikely motive for the killing unless it was a botched heist.
Delaney is the second Irishman killed in the Inwood section in the last five years. And although a link is unlikely, investigators are also cross-checking firearms ballistics to see if any connections surface to the slaying of Eamon Naughton, a bartender from Galway shot to death at the Greenacres bar in the summer of 1995.
On Saturday, a service was held for Delaney and relatives and friends retired to his bar to mourn. After the service, resentment over the allegations against Delaney simmered among those who knew him. Friends and regulars at neighborhood bars said the Dubliner was the furthest one could imagine from the man portrayed in the Irish media.
"I only have good things to say about him," said a barman at The Liffy, who gave his name as Tony. "He was a gentleman. Beautiful guy."
Most spoke about Delaney in similar terms. He had worked in the Liffy II for just over a year after having worked in several other bars in the neighborhood. To some he was a straight talker; others remember him as simply a regular guy who always managed to be in a happy mood.
Others said Delaney had no enemies or, if he did, one acquaintance joked, it might only be because he lacked speed behind the bar at times. But most swiftly dismissed charges he had been involved in a sexual assault.
"I was shocked. I don't think it happened. I've known the guy for eight or nine years," said Pat, a regular at Irish Eyes bar who knew Delaney from other drinking establishments too.
"I'd be really surprised if it was connected to anything like that. Somebody walked in and he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wouldn't read anything into that," he said.
"But I don't think they'll catch the killer, I really don't," he added.
On Saturday, NYPD information posters bearing Delaney's photograph began appearing around Inwood, but most people agreed that in a neighborhood that had already seen two barmen killed, Delaney's murder was far from being solved.
Anyone with any information should call the detective squad at the 34th precinct at (212) 927-0822 or the NYPD's Crimestoppers line at 1800-577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.