Weegee Wednesday triptych: “Loafer Shoots Cop in Tussle at Park Zoo”

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Weegee, “John Shafran,” 1940 (2374.1993)

On September 9th, in three different years, 1940, 1941 and 1943, Weegee had photos published in PM. Three posts will present these photos and stories.

Three for 09/09, Part 1: “Loafer Shoots Cop in Tussle at Park Zoo”

At 2 PM on Sunday, September 8, 1940, at the zoo in Central Park, in Manhattan, John Shafran, described by the press as a loafer, a bum, a thug, a jobless, homeless knockabout, an unemployed laborer, and an unemployed vagrant, roughly dressed, wild-looking, and a short but powerfully built, single man, was arrested near the seal pool, by a pair of plainclothes police officers for annoying young girls. While they, the pair of plainclothes officers, a uniformed police officer, another recently arrested man and Shafran were entering the Central Park Zoo foreman’s office to await the patrol wagon, Shafran lunged at the uniformed police officer, fell on top of him and grabbed the officer’s gun, fired it three times, and one bullet struck the officer. Shafran was hit on the head with an oil can and the gun was taken from him. By the time Shafran left the zoo foreman’s office he was “manhandled” (PM) and his face was “battered and his shirt was covered in blood” (NY Times). Shafran, born in Pennsylvania, came to Manhattan from New Jersey, and told the Assistant District Attorney: “My sixth sense told me to do the shooting. Nobody is going to arrest me.”

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PM, September 9, 1940, p. 9 (Photo by Weegee)

The Man Who Shot a Cop
Homeless, jobless, John Shafran was arrested for annoying children in Central Park. He seized a cop’s gun, shot him and was manhandled a bit himself.

Policeman Shot With Own Gun
Although still in serious condition in Roosevelt Hospital, Patrolman Thomas O’Sullivan, 38, is expected to survive a bullet in the groin inflicted yesterday when a man arrested earlier on a morals charge in Central Park grabbed the police officer’s revolver during a furious scuffle and shot him as he lay on the ground.
John Shafran, 29, an unemployed vagrant had been arrested on a charge of molesting young girls near the seal tank in the park zoo and taken to a park garage. Trying to escape, he lunged at O’Sullivan, guarding the door, and knocked him down. Then he snatched O’Sullivan’s revolver and fired three shots.
Police hit him over the head with an oil can to stop him from escaping, booked him for felonious assault.
PM, September 9, 1940, p. 9

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New York Daily News, September 9, 1940, p. 4 (News Photo)

Loafer Shoots Cop in Tussle at Park Zoo
A Central Park bum, hustled away from the seal pond for annoying small girls, went berserk in an office near the Zoo’s giraffe pen shortly before 2 P. M. yesterday and shot and seriously wounded Patrolman Thomas O’Sullivan, 38.
Crowds mingled around the animal cages within earshot as the man – identified as John Shafran, 29, a jobless, homeless knockabout – tussled with the policeman, grabbed his revolver and wounded him in the groin.
Beaten into Submission
Two plainclothesmen – John J. Lynch and Francis O’Meara – were in the room in the Park Department garage when Shafran lunged at O’Sullivan, knocked him to the floor and came up shooting, O’Sullivan dropped and two bullets went wild before the man was beaten into submission…
New York Daily News, Sept 9, 1940. p. 4


The New York Times, Sept 9, 1940. p. 17 (Times Wide World)

Zoo Crowd Hears Policeman Shot
Widowed Father of 4 Wounded by Prisoner Who Seizes Revolver From Holster
Assailant is Subdued
Shooting Occurs as Police Honor Dead in Park Rites at Which 5 Were Shot in 1938

A peaceful Sunday afternoon in Central Park zoo was shattered yesterday when, within earshot though out of sight from thousands of visitors, Patrolman Thomas O’Sullivan, widowed father of four children, was shot and seriously wounded while assisting two plainclothes men in the arrest of two men on charges of molesting young girls.
The shooting, a stone’s throw from he giraffe pen and the alligator cage, where crowds of children were with their parents occurred when, on the Mall, thousands of O’Sullivan’s comrades were assembled at the annual service in memory of police heroes held by the Police Honor Legion…
Patrolman O’Sullivan was shot with his own service revolver by one of the prisoners, who wrested the weapon out of the holster and attacked him with maniacal fury. Only one of the three bullets fired took effect… The assailant, subdued by the plainclothes men, was identified as John Shafran, 29 years old, unemployed. He was booked on a charge of felonious assault…
Assistant District Attorney Rosenblum quoted Shafran as saying: “My sixth sense told me to do the shooting. Nobody is going to arrest me.”
The New York Times, Sept 9, 1940. p. 17

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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