this day in crime history: january 5, 1945

On this date in 1945, Albany, NY Police Chief William Fitzpatrick was shot and killed in his office at police headquarters. It all started when the Chief’s bodyguard and longtime friend, Detective John McElveney, entered the office at 3:00 PM. The two men began to argue. The argument ended at 3:10 when Detective McElveney drew his pistol and shot Chief Fitzpatrick in the head, killing him.

According to the Albany Police and the D.A.’s office, the argument was part of an “ongoing dispute.” Contemporary news reports suggest the dispute was over payment for recent dental work done to correct injuries McElveney suffered after having been struck by Fitzpatrick.

Detective McElveney was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, avoiding the appointment with the electric chair that usually awaited most cop killers back in those days. He was released in 1957, when his sentence was commuted by Governor Averill Harriman. He died of cancer in 1968 at the age of 71.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, the late Dan O’Connell, founder and former chair of the Albany Democratic political machine, told him that Chief Fitzpatrick, back when he was a sergeant, was one of the gunmen who killed gangster Legs Diamond in 1931. Of course Chief Fitzpatrick was conveniently dead when this accusation was made, and therefore unable to dispute O’Connell. Or sue him for defamation.

Further reading:

Albany Police – Chief William J. Fitzpatrick

O Albany!, by William Kennedy

Schenectady Gazette, January 29, 1946 – “Pleads Guilty to 2nd Degree Murder Count”

Legs Diamond: Gangster, by Patrick Downey

2 thoughts on “this day in crime history: january 5, 1945

  1. John D.:
    Now THAT is a story to begin the week with…a PD chief shot & killed by one his own detectives…after years of arguing between them.
    (were they both IRISH?)

    Leave it to the DEMS to gin up a story that con-VEN-iently has no one to corroborate it, too.
    Didn’t know this kind of thing went on up in the NY capital…and that LONG ago.
    Good find.

    Roll safe out there this week.


    • They were both Irish. Newspaper reports of the day indicated that the argument was over paying for McElveney’s dental work. As the story goes, the work was done to fix injuries caused by Fitzpatrick striking him.

      As for O’Connell’s claim, I don’t believe it. He was a crooked SOB. His statement to Kennedy was a backhanded way of claiming he (O’Connell) put the hit out on Legs.


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