A New York cop shot by the Mafia in Italy

Born in Salerno, Italy, in 1860, Giuseppe “Joseph” Petrosino joined the New York Police Department in 1883. He is the only New York cop killed in the line of duty on foreign soil.

JosephpetrosinoPetrosino grew up in Little Italy. Fluent in many Italian dialects, he rose through the NYPD ranks quickly, earning a promotion to detective in 1895 and then founding the NYPD bomb squad to thwart Mafia bombings. 

After another promotion, to lieutenant, in 1908, Petrosino was put in charge of the Italian Squad, an elite group of detectives who handled mob-related crimes. On his watch, thousands of arrests were made, and crimes against Italians dropped by half.

In March 1909 he went to Palermo, Sicily, on a top-secret investigation. Mobsters in the U.S. would not kill a policeman. But in Palermo, things were different. Lured into a meeting with a supposed informant, Petrosino was shot dead.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers attended his funeral; the procession went from Little Italy to Calvary Cemetery in Queens. In 1987, Kenmare Square, on Lafayette Street, was renamed Joseph Petrosino Square. 

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5 Responses to “A New York cop shot by the Mafia in Italy”

  1. Inside Information » A New York cop shot by the Mafia in Italy « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Original post: A New York cop shot by the Mafia in Italy « Ephemeral New York […]

  2. leona_ny Says:

    There is this 3-part story of Joe Petrosino in YouTube:

    I also saw this movie on Rai:


  3. leona_ny Says:

    Direct link to the movie:



  4. RED DAVE Says:

    There are actually no less than three movies about Joe Petrosino: Sidney M. Goldin’s The Adventures of Lieutenant Petrosino (1912); Pay or Die (1960), starring Ernest Borgnine (not one of his better performances); and The Black Hand (1973), starring Lionel Stander.


  5. A sugar barrel, a pastry shop, and a body in 1903 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] were held at Jefferson Market courthouse, the dead man was ID’d, thanks to detective work by Joseph Petrosino, one of the few Italian Americans on the NYPD at the time and an early investigator of the Black Hand and […]

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