Officer John Scarangella succumbed to gunshot wounds received two weeks earlier when he and his partner were shot by heavily armed gunmen during a traffic stop.
Officer Scarangella and his partner stopped a van that fit the description of a van wanted in connection with several burglaries in the area. Before the officers could exit their vehicle, the two occupants of the van exited and opened fire with 9 millimeter semi-automatic handguns, firing a total of 30 shots. Officer Scarangella was struck twice in the head and his partner was struck 14 times in the legs and back.
Officer Scarangella was removed to the hospital where he died two weeks later. His partner was forced to retire in 1982 due to his wounds.
The two suspects in the murder fled the state. One suspect was apprehended in North Carolina by detectives from the New York City Police Department and the Sumter County Sheriff's Department. The second suspect was apprehended in Pennsylvania by two police officers from the Philadelphia Police Department when they observed him walking down a street in Philadelphia wearing a bullet resistant vest. When these officers approached the suspect, he dropped a gun and fled on foot. He was apprehended after a fierce struggle in which several officers were injured. At that time, he was found to be in possession of the gun that was used to kill Officer Scarangella and wound his partner.
Both suspects were convicted of attempted murder in connection with the shooting of Officer Scarangella's partner, but in two different trials the juries were hung on the charge of murder in connection with the killing of Officer Scarangella.
In July of 1986, both suspects were convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Although never charged, one of the suspects in Officer Scarangella's murder was a prime suspect in the murders of Police Officer Edward O'Grady, and Police Officer Waverly Brown, of the Nyack Police Department, on October 20, 1981 during a robbery of an armored car. When he was arrested, he was in possession of a gun linked to those murders.
Both suspects were one-time members of the Black Liberation Army.
Officer Scarangella had been a member of the New York City Police Department for 12 years, and is survived by his wife, four children, and three siblings. He was assigned to the 113th Precinct. The Black Liberation Army was a violent, radical group that attempted to fight for independence from the United States government in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The BLA was responsible for the murders of more than 10 police officers around the country. They were also responsible for violent attacks around the country that left many police officers wounded.