Hundreds of cops formed a sea of blue at the street renaming ceremony outside of the 113th Precinct on Baisley Blvd. for NYPD officer John Scarangella, gunned down 30 years ago in the line of duty.
It was a sunny day on 231st Street on May 1, 1981, when a young man was getting ready to go to August Martin H.S. to take a science test and heard a crash. He didn’t want to be late for school and waited till after he took his test to call 911.
Two officers responded and took an attempted burglary report in St. Albans. The young man mentioned seeing a white van with NJ license plates. One or two blocks away, the two officers spotted the white van and followed it to 116th Avenue and 203rd Street, where they pulled them over. Before they could get out of their patrol car, the perp and his passenger got out of the van and fired 28 shots into the patrol car with semi-automatic weapons.
John Scarangella was hit twice in the head, but was able to jot down the license plate number of the white van – 621PJZ, which led to the capture and conviction of the two perps. He died two weeks later. His partner Richard Rainey was shot 14 times and survived. The two perps, James Dixon-York and Anthony Laborde were both members of the Black Liberation Army, an off shoot of the Black Panther Party. After three trials, both were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
The family and a family friend, Det. Mark Lobel tried for many years to get the street renamed to honor Scarangella. They were turned down three times by Community Board 12. Councilman Leroy Comrie stepped in and overruled the community board.
Thomas Scarangella, who was only five years old when his father was killed, is a police officer who spoke on behalf of the family.
He described his father as a quiet man who loved his family and devoted 12 years to this city in a job he loved. During those 12 years, he received many commendations and saved a few lives. The feeling of loss never goes away, he said, even though it happened 30 years ago, it is like it happened yesterday.
He also said NY’s finest became their family, and recalled the weekend getaways and trips to Coney Island and picnics. Thomas Scarangella is 37 and married with children. This day means so much to the family and the grandchildren who never knew their grandfather. When our children ask about their grandpa, we can bring them here, he said.
PBA President Patrick Lynch said this was the largest turnout he had ever seen for a street remaining. Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark and Assemblyman William Scarborough and Councilman Leroy Comrie were all there to honor the police officer who gave his life to protect the people of Southeast Queens.