stephen gilroy
NYPD's Stephen Gilroy.

Remembering Police Officer Gilroy, 49 years on

The law enforcement community will turn out again today in their thousands to honor fallen hero Wilbert Mora, who was tragically gunned down in Harlem last week. The sad occasion will  remind  older Greenpoint  residents of another heroic NYPD officer who died in the line of duty, Officer Stephen R. Gilroy, whose life was cut tragically short in a hostage situation in Bushwick 49 years ago. The married 29-year-old eight-year veteran of the force was shot in the head by one of four heavily armed men while robbing John and Al’s Sporting Goods on Broadway on Jan.19, 1973.

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 A huge crowd with an estimated 10,000 police officers paid their respects on a cold January day to mourn Gilroy at his funeral  Mass at St. Cecelia’s Roman Catholic Church, the parish where he and his siblings went to school and where he was married. It was at that time the largest turnout ever for a fallen officer. The Mayor, the Police Commissioner and other dignitaries came to the funeral where Gilroy was eulogized as a hero.  He was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Officer Gilroy was in line for a promotion to sergeant at the time of his death. 

 Although his death occurred almost 50 years ago, there are still many locals who fondly remember, and still mourn, the fallen officer. Officer Gilroy was born in 1944 into an Irish-American family that lived on Monitor Street.  He grew up playing in McGolrick Park across the street from the family home.  One of five siblings, he came from a family of fire fighters and cops. As a young man, Gilroy showed a great love of football and he proved to be a really hard-nosed player for a local Greenpoint team. He was also remembered for his great love of Irish songs, which he loved to sing at family parties. 

 As a 21-year-old he entered the police academy and was appointed to the force where he showed the same toughness and bravery that he had earlier shown on the football field. He was such a special cop that he was assigned to a special unit- Emergency Services Eight, which handled some of the most dangerous situations the police confronted.

 It is hard for people to imagine how dangerous Brooklyn was in 1973. Crime was rampant and many middle-class families abandoned urban areas like Greenpoint for the safer suburbs. On that fateful January day, Gilroy and his partner heard the call of an attempted robbery on Broadway over the radio. Only a few blocks from the scene of the crime ,they sped towards the sporting goods store. Police arrived quickly and managed to foil the robber’s escape, but the situation was highly dangerous. The armed robbers held a dozen shoppers hostages inside the store and availed themselves of the guns, ammunition and high-powered scopes that were on sale in the store. 

 The police at the scene came under heavy and accurate fire from the four robbers who were using scopes to shoot at the officers who scrambled for cover. Officer Gilroy was taking cover behind a pillar for the elevated subway line when he peered out from behind the stanchion. He was hit in the head by a bullet and died almost instantaneously. Gilroy was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors could do nothing to save the fallen hero’s life. 

 The siege lasted almost two days. Finally, the hostages managed to sneak out and the robbers surrendered.  Officer Gilroy’s killer, Shuaib Raheem, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. He was paroled in 2010 after serving 37 years, sparking a great outcry, including from Gilroy’s widow Patricia Gilroy. One of the other men sentenced in the robbery, Salih Abdullah, served 47 years and suffered a fatal stroke in the middle of his 14th Parole Board appearance in 2020. 

 Greenpoint honored Officer Gilroy’s tragic sacrifice by naming the baseball field where he played as a kid Stephen Gilroy Field in his memory.