Police Officer John Falcone Poughkeepsie City Police Department New York End of Watch: Friday, February 18, 2011

Photograph: Police Officer John FalconePatch image: Poughkeepsie City Police Department, New York

Police Officer John Falcone
Poughkeepsie City Police Department
New York

End of Watch: Friday, February 18, 2011

Biographical Info
Age: 44
Tour of Duty: 18 years
Badge Number: 22

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Friday, February 18, 2011
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Committed suicide

Officer John Falcone was shot and killed after responding to a shots fired call on Main Street.
He was just over a block away when he received the call and when he arrived at the scene he encountered a man holding a 3-year-old child and waving a gun. The suspect fled, still holding the child, with Officer Falcone in pursuit.
Officer Falcone was able to rescue the child from the man and handed the child to a bystander before engaging in a struggle with the suspect as other officers arrived at the scene. During the struggle Officer Falcone was fatally shot in the head before the man committed suicide.
The subject’s wife was found in a nearby car suffering from a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Officer Falcone had served with the Poughkeepsie Police Department for 18 years. He is survived by his parents.

Agency Contact Information
Poughkeepsie City Police Department
62 Civic Center Plaza
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Phone: (845) 451-4000
Please contact the Poughkeepsie City Police Department for funeral arrangements or for survivor benefit fund information.

Neighborhood grieves for officer who was fatally shot

In the City of Poughkeepsie’s Waryas Park, a biting, violent wind whipped across the Hudson River on Saturday afternoon — 24 hours after a city officer was gunned down nearby.

The park was deserted , except for a cluster of crows. They called out from eerie branches above, in a sunless sky, and swooped down over patches of sooty snow and drab lawn.

Banks of jagged ice swallowed a cargo ship motoring north, the ship’s engine filling the air with a rambling, achy hum.

The park’s play sets, wooden benches, docks, pathways and parking lots stood completely still, unused.

Nearby, lower Main Street’s neighborhood was somber, as many people there who had never met fallen police Officer John Falcone mourned the loss of his life. Falcone was killed by 27-year-old Lee M. Welch after the Catskill man fatally shot his estranged wife, Jessica Welch, 28, in the presence of their 3-year-old daughter.

"It’s just so awful, just awful. It’s every horrible word," said Rebecca Lee, owner of the Bella Luci hair salon. Her hands clasped over her heart again and again as she sat behind the front desk.

That morning, her customers called to find out, could they drive there? What was the area like? By noon, a few salon chairs were full, and no one had canceled their appointments.

Lee said she felt comforted knowing that life was "still moving" albeit slower.

‘It’s unbelievable’

The weather Friday was in stark contrast to the gray haze that swallowed Poughkeepsie a day later. The sun was out Friday, teasing people with signs of spring. Pedestrians were outside mingling, until gunshots rang out and a sea of officers followed.

"Once we found out what was going on, it was like ‘Oh my God,’ " Lee said. "It’s just tragic, sad. It’s unbelievable."

A patron at the Palace Diner, Nicole Legname, 45, of Rhinebeck, had never met Falcone, but she swept at the tears that clouded her eyes Saturday as she talked about his death.

"I feel for the family of the officer and the poor child," said the school psychologist who was on her way to a hockey game at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center .

Her husband , Anthony Legname, an executive chef at Marist College, said, "That poor child. To be that young and lose both your parents."

His wife said, "I just can’t believe it, that it happened here."

Business at the Palace Diner — a popular eatery for city police officers — seemed normal in some ways Saturday.

Servers zipped into the kitchen. Plated meals zoomed out from the swinging kitchen doors. The buzz of chatter saturated the air. Diner manager Nitza Mirones stopped a moment to talk about how she was coping.

"We lost one of our own. … I get choked up," she said, her voice trailing off.

Chills ran down her neck, bumps plumped up on her arms, she said, when 10 police officers sprinted out of the diner Friday after word that an officer was down spread via their radios.

Mirones was waiting Saturday, anxious for Falcone’s photograph to be released.

"They come here to eat all the time. How could I not know him?" she said. "I’m very stressed. … He is very young to loose his life. … These people put their life on the line and we sit comfortably."

Social media

Those who stayed close to home Saturday showed their support by using sites like Facebook. An hour after a memorial Facebook page called "R.I.P Officer John Falcone of City of Poughkeepsie Police Department" was created, nearly 300 people had linked to it. Two hours later, more than 800 had linked. Comments on the site said Falcone was a true hero.

And Facebook users changed their profile photographs to graphics reflecting Falcone’s badge or a thin blue line, signifying law enforcement, with a black box as a background, standing for a fallen officer.

Red Hook resident Marc Molinaro said, after putting up a badge as his profile image, "I … have had nonstop requests from New York City to the North Country to … use it."

Looking for news

Others were thirsty for information.

As people picked up their lunches in Poughkeepsie’s eateries Saturday, they asked for copies of local newspapers and swapped rumors.

Annette DeCaprio, 62, of Hopewell Junction, said in her 11 years of owning the Metro Coffee stand at the Poughkeepsie Train Station , there was never an incident that compares to the shootings.

"I used to come here at 4 a.m. It was pitch-black. I never had a problem," she said.

At Amici’s restaurant near the train station, a waitress stopped wiping down menus. A pizza maker paused from spreading sauce on dough. A live news update of the shootings on a television there stole their attention.

Amici’s owner Joel Trocino said city police are his patrons and "we care deeply about them. We’re thinking of their families and friends. It’s on everyone’s mind. Everyone is upset."

At another pizzeria, Emiliano’s Pizza on Main Street, staff weren’t in their normal joking mood. A computer by the cash register was kept on news websites for updates. When the phone rang, it wasn’t always to place orders. Some just wanted to know what happened.

Marist seniors Megan Hunsicker, 21, of New Jersey, and Danielle Francese, 21, of Pleasant Valley, stopped at the Washington Street Jelly Belly Deli for sandwiches. The conversation kept going back to the tragedy.

They were interning Friday in New York City. When their Metro-North Railroad train pulled into the Poughkeepsie station at about 7 p.m., nothing seemed very different.

"There was just a lot less cars in the parking garage," Hunsicker said.

They both had no fear of venturing off-campus to pick up some lunch Saturday.

"This is just the usual Poughkeepsie for us now. We’re seniors. We’re used to the crime," Hunsicker said.

Francese, also unfazed, had expected her parents to call her after the news spread, but she said, "I think they didn’t want me to know. They didn’t want to scare me."

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