It was 30 years ago, Jan. 21, 1986, that NYPD Det. Anthony J. Venditti went on what should have been a regular surveillance patrol, following a reputed Genovese crime family captain through the streets of Queens.
The day turned out to be anything but routine. Outside a diner in Ridgewood, mayhem ensued. Venditti was shot dead and his partner, Catherine Burke, wounded.
Thursday at NYPD headquarters in Manhattan, friends, family and old colleagues of Venditti gathered for a quiet ceremony to rededicate a plaque in his honor that will hang in the office of the department’s organized crime investigation division.
The fatal shooting led to a murder indictment against Federico “Fritzy” Giovanelli, believed to have been a powerful crime family captain, in a case that dragged on for years and through numerous trials. Even now, there is uncertainty about who took Venditti’s life since no one was ever convicted of the crime.
“He was an exceptional human being and an outstanding investigator,” said Chief of Department James P. O’Neill of Venditti. “He loved his job and was passionately devoted to his work.”
Venditti’s wife, Patricia, thanked the assembled cops for staying close with her family. His mother, Anna, said ever since her son died, she has never removed a pendant from her neck carrying a replica of his detective shield.
Venditti was mortally wounded outside what was then the Castillo Diner at the intersection of St. Nicholas and Myrtle avenues. He and his partner, Burke, were following Giovanelli and two other men when the three stopped by the diner.
News accounts stated that Burke had been circling the block and Venditti was exiting the diner when Giovanelli was spotted in the parking lot. Gunshots rang out and both cops were hit. Burke survived. Giovanelli and his associates were arrested and charged with murder.
But accounts of the incident were muddled, with contradictory witness accounts of what happened. Two prosecutions in Queens state court failed to garner convictions for the killing. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan finally convicted Giovanelli for racketeering murder but it was overturned on appeal.
In October 2011, the city dedicated a small plot of land in Ridgewood in Venditti’s honor. A plaque at the site was inscribed with a quote from Raymond Chandler’s 1950 collection of short stories: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean: who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”