Who Really Murdered This Legendary NYPD Detective?
No, despite the headlines, we still don’t know who gunned down Joe Petrosino in Sicily 105 years ago.
ROME, Italy — The competition among Mafiosi-in-the-making can get pretty tough in Sicily. So when a 28-year-old wannabe superboss named Domenico Palazzotto was looking for a way to better his position among the Cosa Nostra, he apparently started bragging about his pedigree by claiming his father’s uncle killed New York City police officer Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino more than 100 years ago.
The news made headlines, not least in New York, where Petrosino is a sort of NYPD icon. He was one of the first Italians on the force, a favorite of Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt back in the hard-scrabble streets of the 1890s, and one tough cop. A New York alderman once said Petrosino “knocked out more teeth than a dentist.” He also worked effectively to infiltrate the underworld of the Mafia and the Black Hand—which is what took him to Italy the year he was killed.
But Italian police are skeptical of Domenico Palozzotto’s claims to the murderer’s bloodline. They say he isn’t even directly related to Paolo Palazzotto, the triggerman who allegedly killed the American hero. In fact, Paolo Palazzotto was tried for the 1909 murder along with Cosa Nostra boss Vito Cascio Ferro, but both were absolved of the crime due to lack of evidence.