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2004-09-09 / Other News

Kin, Police Vow To Keep Canarsie Cop Killer In Jail

Separate area is set aside at 69th Precinct as a memorial to heroes who fell in the line of duty. Charles Rogers Scotch taped on a stairwell wall at the 69th Precinct station house on Foster Avenue is a typed memo urging police officers, their friends and families to write to authorities to keep a Canarsie cop killer in prison.

Salvatore (Crazy Sal) DeSarno, who viciously murdered Police Officer Cecil Frank Sledge in 1980 and is serving 25 years to life in an upstate prison, is supposed to have his first hearing before a parole board in Nov-ember.

According to 69th Precinct officers they and Sledge’s family are not the only ones lobbying to see that DeSarno stays behind bars. Sources say there have been letters sent to parole offices in Albany from law enforcement agencies throughout the country trying to have the killer’s request for early re-lease denied.

A spokesman for the police union, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) said recently that they wanted to send the message that no killer of a police officer should “ever” expect to get out of prison.

Sledge was patrolling alone on January 28, 1980 and was questioning DeSarno at a traffic stop at East 78 Street and Flatlands Avenue when the killer pulled out a gun and shot Sledge four times. The officer was dragged ap-proximately 20 blocks as DeSarno fled in his car.

The story was covered extensively in the Canarsie Courier. Below is the account of the shooting as chronicled in our January 31, 1980 issue:

By Charles Rogers

Black bunting draped the front of the 69th Precinct station house last Tuesday as the men of the Foster Avenue headquarters mourned their friend and fellow officer Cecil Sledge, killed Monday night in the performance of duty after he stopped a motorist at Flatlands Avenue and East 78th St. to question him about a recent robbery.

Sledge was shot four times and was dragged twenty blocks to Flatlands Avenue and East 58th St., with his belt hooked onto the bumper of the car.

Witnesses said the car sped off from the E. 78th Street scene and reached 80 miles per hour as it crossed Ralph Avenue. As it made a turn on East 58 St. at the intersection of Avenue I, it hit a light pole and the suspect, identified as Salvatore DeSarno, 22 of 1046 Remsen Ave, ran into a nearby house at 5715 Avenue I, held a woman hostage for a brief period of time and then surrendered to police, who had surrounded the house and made him throw his .38 caliber pistol out the win-dow. The woman was not hurt, according to police.

DeSarno was booked on charges of murder, assault, resisting arrest and reckless endangerment.

According to police, Sledge was on duty alone, having elected to take a one-man patrol car on his rounds in-stead of pulling a walking tour of duty. Normally he would have another officer with him, but his usual partner was not on duty Monday night.

When first reports of the crime came into the precinct, all off-duty officers came in to see if they could help, as is usually the case in the “brotherhood” of the Police Department. New York City Police Commissioner Robert McGuire arrived on the scene as soon as it was reported to him.

Officials of the Police Benevolent Association said that this would put an end to single man patrol cars as far as they were concerned and said that if the one-man edict, passed a mere three years ago, was not rescinded they would refuse to go on a single tour and if there were any recriminations the entire PBA force would strike. “If Sledge had had a backup man with him on Monday,” one member of the precinct said, “there would be no question that he would have been alive to-

day.” Usually when a cop is questioning a motorist the second cop stays nearby keeping a watchful eye on the motorist. This time there was no one to keep an eye on the suspect and a Canarsie police officer died.

Sledge, in his early 30’s who preferred to be called “Frank” by his comrades, had been a police officer for 12 years. He was the first cop in the city to be killed this year.

DeSarno, whose nickname is Crazy Sal, is well known to the police of the 69th Precinct. According to police he had been picked up or arrested on at least 25 different occasions, being questioned in connection with robberies, assaults and drug abuse.

“Frank” Sledge was a tough cop. According to Harry Appel, president of the 69th Precinct Community Coun-cil, Sledge was one of those cops who handled things “Just like the old days.”

Youths from area schools who knew Sledge said he would break up their “hanging out” on Flatlands Avenue or Avenue L; not necessarily with a kind word either. But grownups and kids all said they respected him.

“When he used to break us up,” one boy was heard to say, “we weren’t too happy about it, but he was doing his job. He was, you know, a good cop.”

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