NYPD cops buy headstone for patrolman killed in the line of duty a century ago

Patrolman John Flood was bludgeoned to death with his own nightstick inside an Upper East Side tenement on July 3, 1917

Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — In a tribute that was 102 years in the making, the grave of an NYPD cop killed in the line of duty more than a century ago finally received a headstone — courtesy of some modern-day brothers-in-blue.

Patrolman John Flood was bludgeoned to death with his own nightstick inside an Upper East Side tenement on July 3, 1917, after a woman ran up to him on the street claiming her boyfriend, a prize fighter, threatened to kill her.

Flood went up to the apartment and never came back down, police said.

The woman’s boyfriend, a pint-sized pugilist from the Bronx named Milton Bleier, punched Flood in the face, then grabbed the cop’s nightstick and beat him to death with it. Bleier then went on the lam but was nabbed in Baltimore six months later.

The NYPD mourned Flood with a full-honors funeral service, where he was remembered as the “parish priest” of the 31st Precinct – now the 19th Precinct – for always admonishing his co-workers who used foul language.

Flood was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens in an unmarked grave that later came to include his wife and his mother-in-law.

A century passed with Flood in anonymous repose. Then in 2016, a crime prevention officer in the 19th precinct started a project to update and renovate the station’s memorial wall, which paid homage to the precinct’s seven officers killed in the kind of duty.

When the wall was re-dedicated, the officer, Anthony Nucchio, met Maureen O’Grady, the granddaughter of Officer Flood, who piqued his interest in the century-old case.

A year later, on the centennial of Flood’s death, Nucchio and his two commanding officers went to pay their respects at the fallen cop’s grave, but couldn’t find it.

“We finally found the location, but there was just grass,” Nucchio explained. “(Cemetery employees) told me there was no stone there. I called Maureen up and she told me that there was never a stone.”

Realizing a fellow cop was in a grave with no headstone — or mention of his ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty — Nucchio felt compelled to take action.

“We had to do something. Over 100 years had gone by and he’s been laying there with his family in an unmarked grave. It didn’t seem right," Nucchio told The News. “It was a no brainer."

The reason for Flood’s anonymous grave was a longstanding family feud that was still boiling when he died. Angry kin denied Flood’s widow access to the family plot for his burial, so she bought a new one.

But the widowed mother of three was unable to afford a headstone for her husband — or ultimately for herself or her mother, when they joined Flood there.

O’Grady tried over the years to get a stone for her grandparents’ grave, but was never able to get the funds and paperwork together, she told Nucchio.

“I told her, ‘You’re not going to worry about it anymore. We were going to take care of it,” Nucchio told The News.

Nucchio rallied active and retired officers from the 19th Precinct and raised the $9,000 needed to buy, engrave and place the headstone in the cemetery.

The marker was in place a week before Thanksgiving — a fitting thank you to a cop who gave his life to the city, Nucchio said.

“It was a genuine honor and privilege to do this for Maureen and her relatives,” the officer added. “It’s our way of thanking Patrolman Flood for his service and thanking his family for giving him up to the city.”

“I feel like he was part of my family,” he added.

O’Grady, 75, saw the stone for the first time on Monday.

“The cops have been phenomenal from the beginning when they said they were going to arrange for the stone to be put in,” the semi-retired math teacher said. “It’s something I’ve been hoping to do for many years and to see it fulfilled is such a blessing.

“This is not a monument just to him, but to everyone in the police department,” she said.

©2019 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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