Hennessy, David (1857-1890) - New Orleans PD

Born New Orleans, LA, 1857.

Killed New Orleans, LA, Oct. 16, 1890.

Police Chief David C. Hennessy of New Orleans was ambushed by Mafia assassins on his way home from work late on the night of Oct. 15, 1890. Hennessy was less than a block from the house he shared with his widowed mother when shotgun blasts from across Girod Street knocked him to the ground. Two of his assailants then approached and fired into his midsection with high-caliber rifles. The chief was still able to stand and return fire with his revolver. The assassins fled. Hennessy stumbled around the next corner and collapsed. When fellow police officers reached him, Hennessy reportedly said he had been shot by "the dagoes."

The location where Chief Hennessy was gunned down by Mafia assassins.
The chief was returning home in the glow of electric streetlights on the
raised sidewalk to the right. Mafia gunmen hid in the shadow
of the long, sloping roof to the left.

While the Sicilian criminal society bore the whole blame for Hennessy's death the following morning, many others in the New Orleans community had motive for acting against Hennessy. Among these were the Provenzano clan, who, despite their friendly stance toward the chief, might never have forgiven him for his role in the capture and deportation of their infamous leader, Giuseppe Esposito, in 1881.

Many in the Democratic establishment also had reason to fear and despise the chief. In 1881, Hennessy killed Chief of Detectives Thomas Devereaux in a gunfight. Devereaux was well connected in the local Democratic party and was close friends with private investigator Dominick O'Malley (who was later known to be working for the Matranga Mafia organization). The corrupt old-line Democrats also might have feared the charismatic Hennessy because he was committed to the anti-immigrant, anti-political-machine reform platform of Mayor Shakespeare.

The Matranga organization was likely infuriated when Hennessy backed the rival Provenzanos in a court battle resulting from a Provenzano attack against Matranga men in the summer of 1890.

Finally, the chief apparently threatened to reveal some damaging information about affluent and influential Sicilian merchant Joseph Macheca (affiliated with the Matrangas) and his friends at the retrial of the Provenzanos late in 1890. Hennessy appears to have gained the information from Italian government sources.

Hennessy is credited with being the first law enforcement professional to identify the Mafia in America and attack it with some degree of success. He must also be viewed as law enforcement's first martyr in the fight against organized crime.

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