By Pauline Murphy
The first New York policeman to die in the line of duty was patrolman Thomas Lynch, 170 years ago. He entered this eternal rest on September 27th, 1849, fourteen months after he was assaulted during a disruption on a New York City street.
Patrolman Thomas Lynch was an Irish immigrant who became one of the first recruits of the newly formed New York Municipal Police Force, which was established in 1845. The forerunner of the NYPD started with some 1,200 policemen, recruited mostly from the shiploads of immigrants arriving in New York from Ireland.
A mini riot broke out at a drug store at 16 Dover Street on Saturday night, July 22nd, 1848. Patrolman Lynch was assigned to the 4th Patrol District (today known as the 1st Precinct) and he was first on the scene.
When Patrolman Lynch arrived at the scene of the disturbance on Dover Street, he tried to mediate in the dispute, but he was hit over the head with an iron pipe. As Patrolman Lynch fell to the ground, he was hit a further ten times before other policemen arrived. The perpetrators dispersed, never to be caught.
Patrolman Lynch spent the next fourteen months in hospital, slipping in and out of a coma. He remained on a salary, but with no medical coverage. He eventually slipped into a coma and did not come out of it. His end of watch came on September 27th, 1849. His widow, Anne, was awarded a bonus by the city, which she used to pay off her husband’s medical bills.
Thomas Lynch became one of the first recruits in the New York City police force and just three years later, he was the first to die in the line of duty. His badge is now on permanent display at the NYPD memorial in New York City.