The Woodhaven Beat: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Patrolman Arthur Kenney (left), killed while defending the residents of Woodhaven in March 1926, left behind a wife and a young daughter. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor. 98 years after his shooting, New York grieves the loss of another hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.

By Ed Wendell
A tragedy happened in Woodhaven nearly 100 years ago. A police officer from another part of Queens, temporarily assigned here to find one dangerous criminal, lost his life on the streets of Woodhaven, defending our community.
On Saturday, April 6th, ninety-eight years after Patrolman Arthur Kenney died from injuries sustained here in Woodhaven, he will be honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM and is the work of the Newtown Historical Society, Councilwoman Joann Ariola and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society. A reception will be held afterwards at Neir’s Tavern.
The Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson have been honoring police officers killed in the line of duty for quite a while and this year they turned their attention to Woodhaven.
Later this year, School Safety Agent Orville Williams, who suffered a heart attack while breaking up a fight between students at Franklin K. Lane in 1999, and Sergeant Thomas F. J. O’Grady, who died due to injuries sustained while responding to a stabbing at Dexter Park in 1916, will also be honored with street co-namings in Woodhaven.
Back in 1926, residents of Woodhaven were living in fear due to a dangerous criminal who had been breaking into residents’ homes and stealing one of the most valuable things many of them owned, the relatively new item every household had to have, a radio.
Reports ranged from 50 to over 100 radios stolen from residents and homeowners began taking down their aerials so it would appear that they didn’t own one. The police flooded the area with plainclothes detectives and uniformed patrolmen to try and corral the criminal the press had dubbed “The Radio Burglar.”
At 2:30 in the morning of March 25th, 1926, police were summoned to a home on 78th Street by a housewife who saw a man acting suspiciously outside a neighbor’s home. When the detectives arrived at the scene, they noticed a flickering light inside the home and one of the officers walked down the alley and into the backyard to investigate.
Detective Frank Donnelly of Long Island City was near the back door when it opened and a man, identifying himself as the homeowner, asked “What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Before the Detective could answer, there was an explosion and he fell, a bullet lodged in his chest. The burglar had shot Donnelly without removing his hand from his jacket pocket.
In the chaos, and under the cover of darkness, the burglar escaped and emerged on 90th Avenue, with Patrolman Arthur Kenney and another officer in hot pursuit. The chase continued past 80th Street, with Kenney closing in, when the burglar disappeared into some bushes.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney followed the suspect’s trail into a dark backyard where he almost collided with a man claiming to be a fellow police officer, also in pursuit.
“I think the man you’re looking for jumped over that fence,” he told Kenney.
Keep in mind that the streets were flooded with plainclothes detectives from all over Queens and they didn’t all know each other. And in that brief momentary pause, the suspect fired his gun from his jacket pocket again, striking Kenney in the neck, before vanishing into the night.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney battled for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries. He was 28 years old and left behind a wife and a young daughter.
His killer, Paul Hilton the Radio Burglar, was captured a few weeks later at the Polo Grounds. He would be convicted and executed for his crimes within a year.
And now, nearly a hundred years later, as Woodhaven prepares to honor a hero lost in 1926, our hearts are broken by the murder of another young hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, lost this week.
Diller, just 31 years old, was killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.
One constant in life is that there will always be bad guys on the streets, and we will always need good police officers to combat them. And sadly, another constant is that police officers will be killed while doing that job.
Our prayers go out to the families of all fallen officers like Patrolman Arthur Kenney and Officer Jonathan Diller and to all the officers that continue to put their lives at risk for our safety, night after night, year after year.
They show bravery and courage that, frankly, is sometimes hard to comprehend. And so, honoring their memories while praying for their souls is the very least we can offer.

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