NYPD hero Thomas Gargan’s story is one for the ages, remembered in a comic book soon after his death — and again last week thanks to a treasure hunter’s find in a Long Island schoolyard.
Officer Gargan was fatally shot on Aug. 17, 1947, while responding to a radio call about a burglar in a row house at 132 Bank St. in the Village. A veteran of the Marines, Gargan, 42, was just months from retirement.
His story was brought to life in the November 1948 issue of “Heroic Comics,” which depicted 18-year-old Harris Gray blasting him point-blank with a flare gun he found in the house.
The comic book then shows Gargan’s partner, Gerard Hughes, firing at Gray. Three of Hughes’ bullets hit the suspect, but the wounds were not mortal. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Gray begs in the next panel.
Gray died in January 1949 in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. Gargan was posthumously awarded the Police Department’s Medal of Honor.
Fast forward to around 2000, when East Hampton resident Ronald King — whose hobby is sweeping the ground with a metal detector in search of coins, jewelry and other lost treasure — scoured the earth around a one-room schoolhouse in Sagaponack, LI.
There, in the soft topsoil where children have played since the 1880s, King found an NYPD badge, No. 16613.
He tossed the badge into a box of finds that seemed of little value.
Then he forgot about it until he was poking through the box a few weeks ago. “I said to myself, ‘I wonder who ever owned this badge?’ ” he recalled. So he typed the badge number into Google, and right away found a page about Thomas Gargan on NYPD Angels, a Web site dedicated to fallen police officers. King left a message on the page about his find: “I would love to return this to a family member.”
Mike Gargan, the hero officer’s grandson and a sergeant with the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit, replied — and King mailed the badge to him last week.
Mike Gargan says the badge he received in the mail last week looks like a replica the department might have given his family after his grandfather’s funeral.
None of his living relatives know how it ended up in the dirt near the Sagaponack school.