How the men and women of the 79th Detective Squad in Brooklyn responded on 9/11/2001 when the day went from bad to worse.

    I can’t believe it has been 16 years since September 11, 2001. Based on my experiences that day as a first responder, I knew I wanted to write a blog post near the anniversary. What I didn’t realize is how closely it would tie to my previous blog about how crime can happen anytime, anywhere. Well if you didn’t believe me then, let me share with you some stories about the ancillary events of 9/11 and the detectives of the NYPD 79th Detective Squad.

    Photo courtesy of Mike Fanning, Chief of Pawleys Island, PD, SC.

    As New York City Came to a Halt on 9/11, Crime Did Not

    Like many members of the NYPD, the detectives of the NYPD 79th Pct. Detective Squad, where I was the “Whip”, responded to the events at the World Trade Center (WTC). We were critical in helping people evacuate Manhattan, getting them to modes of travel such as buses and trains (subway and commuter) in Brooklyn. In the midst of the terror attacks at the WTC and the massive evacuation, the detectives were also tasked with three unrelated homicides that same day. One case occurred the night of 9/11, when Henryk Siwiak was shot and killed while walking to work. The second case was a double murder that occurred a month earlier when a mother and her infant baby boy were stabbed to death by her husband and left behind in their apartment.

    Responding to Homicide Cases on 9/11/01

    Henryk Siwiak, a Polish immigrant was heading to his first day at a new job when he found himself at the wrong subway station. Unfortunately, Henryk became the victim of a robbery shooting, in which he sustained fatal injuries. He spoke no English and was most likely disoriented, as he was approximately two miles away from the Pathmark supermarket where he was due to work. Sadly, Henryk’s case didn’t get the normal crime scene response to gather information, collect evidence and memorialize the scene due to strained resources from the events that had occurred earlier in the day. Still to this day, Henryk’s case remains unsolved. However, because of the dogged determination of my former esteemed colleague Detective Mike Prate, the case was never forgotten; just like the victims at the WTC.

    In addition to Henryk’s case, the squad was also tasked with investigating a double murder, which had occurred in early August within the confines of the 79th Precinct. The offender had been identified and apprehended, and found in the hospital after receiving severe injuries from being hit by a car. He survived the accident and was able to make an incriminating statement due to the skillful interview techniques of the assigned detective, Chris Scandole. Want to take a guess when the hospital called to say the prisoner was medically released? Yep! In the middle of our response to the WTC attacks and the evacuation of the City. I am proud to say the squad investigated it thoroughly; processed the arrest that night, and the offender was convicted and sent to prison.

    Business as Usual Nothing Unusual for First Responders

    So, while the city and the country had come to a complete stop and the world was processing the horrific events of 9/11, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn was still business as usual. It happened there, and on September 11, 2001 of all days. From being tasked to evacuate the city to canvassing and solving homicide cases, the events of 9/11 helped every member of the NYPD who ever worked that job know they are the “finest.” And I am proud to say that in the midst of the chaos of 9/11, I also saw “the Greatest Detectives in the World” do what they do best – get it done.

    Tom Joyce
    Tom is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Prior to working with Vigilant Solutions, Tom was the Director of Law Enforcement Market Planning for LexisNexis Government Services. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.
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