Four fallen cops in 109th honored in street naming

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One died after trying to stop a robbery on the night of his wedding anniversary. Another was killed leaping to the aid of his father-in-law, who was being mugged in his own driveway.

Two others died as they helped rescue thousands from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

The four men, who served as police officers in Flushing, were honored last week with the renaming of two streets outside the 109th Precinct at the corner of Union Street and 37th Avenue.

One block of Union Street was renamed “Officer Gabriel Vitale & Officer Anthony J. Abruzzo Jr. Place,” while a block of 37th Avenue was given the designation “Officer Thomas M. Langone & Officer Paul Talty Way” on May 21.

“The NYPD never forgets its heroes,” First Deputy Police Commissioner George Grasso told a crowd of the fallen officers’ families and more than 100 police. “Each of these men represents the finest traditions of the NYPD.”

Vitale and Abruzzo, both officers with the 109th Precinct, were killed in separate robberies in the early 1980s.

Vitale, who lived in Nassau, was shot in a robbery on Northern Boulevard on Dec. 15, 1980, succumbing to his injuries on Christmas Eve, his daughter said.

A year later, Abruzzo, who lived in Flushing, was trimming a Christmas tree when he heard a commotion outside the house where he found his father in-law was under attack by muggers. When he identified himself as a police officer, he was shot, said Anthony Lemma, a friend of Abruzzo.

Langone and Talty, residents of Nassau, served in Emergency Services Unit 10, which operates out of the 109th Precinct. On Sept. 11, the two friends rushed down to the World Trade Center.

“These fallen brothers will always be members of the 109th family and the emergency services family,” said Inspector Owen Monaghan of the 109th during the rainy ceremony.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown told the crowd he remembered all of the men.

“Each of them showed a compassion for the job, a dedication to the city,” he said.

After a series of speeches, each family was presented with a replica of one of the street signs.

For the families and friends of Vitale and Abruzzo, the event brought back the memory of their loved ones and the circumstances of their deaths.

“It was an emotional time,” said Ninette Vitale, the officer’s daughter. “I think it’s pretty cool that they still honor their fallen heroes such a long time afterwards.”

Ninette Vitale said a street renaming ceremony had been in the works for her father and Abruzzo before Sept. 11, but the terrorist attacks pushed back the date of the event.

Lemma remembered Abruzzo as very caring with his own children.

“All of our kids, they all loved him. They remember him to this day,” he said.

For the families of Langone and Talty, the loss of their loved ones was still fresh in their minds.

Barbara Talty, the officer’s wife, called the renaming a “great honor.”

“I’m very touched by the support of the community of Flushing,” she said.

Caitlin Langone, 13, and Brian Langone, 13, the officer’s children, recalled their father’s crazy stories from his job.

“They had to go into this lady’s house, and she never threw anything out,” Brian remembered. “The garbage was piled to the ceiling. There were cobwebs the size of cargo nets.”

The event also triggered mixed emotions for the families.

“Part of me hates seeing it there,” said Rosemarie Langone, the officer’s sister, about the sign. “I wish it didn’t have to be there.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

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