By Steve Lieberman
October 19, 2009
NYACK - Several hundred people will gather Tuesday around the stone
memorial at the New York State Thruway entrance honoring two police
officers and a Brinks security guard murdered during a robbery and
roadblock on Oct. 20, 1981. '
Along with memorializing the lives of Nyack Sgt. Edward O'Grady,
Nyack Police Officer Waverly "Chipper" Brown and Brinks guard Peter
Paige, participants will bear additional honors.
A Rockland Historical Society marker will be unveiled declaring the
grounds a landmark where the two officers were killed on Mountainview
Avenue off Route 59. The Rockland Patrolmen's Benevolent Association
worked with the society on the honor.
The officers also have been awarded Medals of Honor posthumously by
the American Federation of Police, while Paige received its Patriot
Medal, said Rockland PBA President James Kelly of the Orangetown
Police Department. The medals will be given to the officers' families
during the ceremony, Kelly said.
In a law enforcement tradition, the Rockland Sheriff's Department
will name three horses with its mounted unit after the two officers
and Paige, South Nyack-Grand View Police Chief Robert Van Cura said.
On a solemn day with a presentation of medals and other honors, the
keynote speaker will be John Hanchar, a nephew of O'Grady who
followed his uncle into Rockland law enforcement as a Clarkstown
Hanchar, a young man 28 autumns ago when his uncle was killed, will
speak about the crime and the loss of loved ones from the viewpoint
of the families, Van Cura said.
The annual ceremony starts at 4 p.m. at the exact time and place
where O'Grady and Brown were killed by a gang of Black Liberation
Army members and self-proclaimed revolutionaries from the 1960s into the 1970s.
The robbers killed Paige nearly 30 minutes earlier when the Brinks
armored car stopped at the Nanuet National Bank at the Nanuet Mall.
Paige's partner, Joseph Trombino, was seriously wounded. Trombino
later survived the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center,
only to be killed during the 2001 attack.
After the robbery of $1.6 million, a Nanuet college student reported
seeing gunmen getting into a red U-Haul van at the old Korvettes
parking lot on Route 59. Nyack police set up a roadblock at the
Thruway entrance and stopped the U-Haul.
Following conversations with the driver and his passenger - Weather
Underground members David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin - six men jumped
out of the rear of the vehicle after Nyack Detective Arthur Keenan
rapped on the door. The gunmen opened fire on the officers with
high-powered automatic weapons, killing O'Grady and Brown and
wounding Keenan. Officer Brian Lennon also was injured.
Gilbert, Boudin and several others were arrested that day after a car
chase, but others escaped.
The robbery was one of more than a dozen holdups committed by the
black nationalist group that enlisted white radicals from the 1960s
and 1970s. A task force of federal agents and police tracked the
radical group, leading to dozens of arrests and convictions.
Tuesday's ceremony will follow the usual script.
The Rockland Emerald Society Pipes & Drum Corps will play its
rendition of "Amazing Grace." The crowd will hear the "The
Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." Sheriff's Lt. Gary
Bowers will play taps while the Clarkstown police honor guard will
carry the flag and give a rifle salute. Wreaths will be placed at the
monument, with its rock and flower garden and American flag.
The Thruway entrance will be closed for the ceremony at the memorial,
which was started in 1982 by John Bergin, then a volunteer
firefighter with O'Grady.