Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis have given the go ahead for East Boston’s resident police historian Officer Robert Anthony of District 7 to honor the first Italian American Boston Police Officer that was killed in the line of duty back in 1921.
Patrolman Andrew B. Cuneo was killed in the line of duty on August 13, 1921 in the North End. The City is looking into the month of October during Italian Heritage Month.
Anthony, who was named the Chronologist for the Boston Police last year, will be exploring locations to honor Officer Cuneo with a memorial. Many of Officers Cuneo’s family have been located and notified of this Historic Event.
Cuneo was 44 years old when he was appointed to the Boston Police Department on May 9, 1906 and served in Districts 3, 6 and 1 before his death.
Cuneo was born in Genoa, Italy and was working in the North End of Boston in familiar territory.
“The Morning of August 13, 1921 was a typical day of duty for Officer Cuneo little did he know it would be his last,” said Anthony.
Cuneo never expected his path to cross an ex-Boston Police Officer Philip Whelan, 39, who was bitter over the loss of his job and upset with the city and state and governments.
“Earlier in the day he entered into the Pawn shop of Max Bloom which was located at 331 Hanover Street in the North End of Boston,” said Anthony. “Whelan asked the owner for a 38. Caliber revolver that was in the display case,”
Bloom handed the revolver to Whelan who then removed bullets from his pocket and loaded the weapon.
Whelan then told Bloom that he would return later that night to pay for the Gun. Bloom requested payment and Whelan had no intention of paying for the Pistol.
“Max Bloom told Whelan “I’ll call the Police” and Whelan exited the pawn shop with the pistol at his side,” said Anthony. “Max Bloom followed Whalen out of his store as Whalen started to walk towards Scolley square.” Bloom yelled out “the man is carrying a gun”.
As Whelan walked down Hanover Street with the pistol out he caused panic among the shoppers as they ran into shops and hid behind parked motor vehicles to get out of Whalen’s way.
“Tony Silver of 295 Hanover Street ran to District 1 police station located on Hanover Street and informed Duty Supervisor Sergeant Corcoran of what was happening.”
Officer Cuneo who was in the guardroom at the time overheard Silver plea for help and told Sergeant Corcoran he would investigate the incident.
Sergeant Corcoran rang the bell in the Station to summons more officers to assist Cuneo.
“Officer Cuneo crossed the street in front of the station and heard loud talking coming from a store a few doors down,” said Anthony. “He observed a man running towards him attempting to avoid someone.”
Whelan upon seeing Cuneo raised his weapon toward the officer forcing him to grab Whelan. A struggle for control of the weapon ensued and the two fell to the ground.
“Whelan was fighting to get away from Cuneo who was attempting to get control of the revolver,” said Anthony. “At this time Sergeant Corcoran and Officers McGowan and Mayer observed from the station what was going on and they raced to assist Officer Cuneo.”
Whelan saw the other officers approaching and managed to get control of the pistol and fired two shots into Cuneo. Cuneo fell to the street mortally wounded. Whalen then turned the weapon towards Sergeant Corcoran, Officer McGowan and Mayer and fired two more shots but the bullets missed their intended targets.
“Shoppers screamed and ran for cover as Whelan ran with the gun in his hand,” said Anthony. “Officer Deyer who heard the sound of gun fire ran to the scene and observed Whelan running down the street attempting to get away.”
When Whelan saw Officer Deyer he turned and fired one shot at him but missed. Officer Deyer drew his service revolver and fired four shots at Whelan. One of the bullets grazed his scalp the other three shots missed.
Officer Stengel came running to the scene from Cross Street and fired five shots at Whelan.
“One of the five shots stuck Whelan in the leg causing him to fall to the pavement,” said Anthony. “Whelan then attempted to reload his pistol, when Sergeant Corcoran. Officer Hafner, Deyer, Stengel and Kavainugh were able to hold him down and arrest him not without a violent struggle.”
Officers McGowan, Mayer and Curry rushed Cuneo to the Haymarket Relief Hospital where Doctor Breslin pronounced him dead upon arrival from severe blood loss.
“Whalen was charged with the murder of Officer Cuneo and arraigned in the Municipal court,” said Anthony.
Newspaper articles of Cuneo’s murder show his wife and the nine children he left behind sitting blank faced on the front steps of their home in Dorchester.
Cuneo was buried in the St. Michael’s Cemetery in Roslindale and his name is on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. Panel 7 East 6, with the Massachusetts State Law Enforcement Memorial in Boston and at the Boston Police Memorial Located at Boston Police Headquarters.
Anthony’s research paved the way to have memorials honoring the first Boston officer killed in action in East Boston and the first African American officer appointed to the force in Allston-Brighton erected in the last few years.