N.Y.C. school principal slain in crossfire

December 18, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The principal of a grade school in one of Brooklyn's toughest neighborhoods, a dedicated, gentle man who often took children by the hand through streets ruled by drug gangs and violence, was slain in an apparent crossfire as he searched for a missing pupil in a crime-ridden housing project.

The victim, Patrick Daly, 48, the principal of Public School 15 in the notorious Red Hook waterfront district, whose quiet 24-year struggle on behalf of his pupils had been featured in news stories and on national television, was out looking for a fourth-grade boy who had left school in tears earlier after a fight with another 9-year-old.

Amid the dreary, red-brick sprawl of the Red Hook Houses, gunfire began to crackle shortly before noon yesterday, authorities said, and Mr. Daly fell, shot once in the chest.

Someone called an ambulance, and Mr. Daly was rushed to a hospital, where doctors tried, but failed, to revive him.

The slaying -- which resonated with tragic symbolism in a neighborhood where only the brave or the foolish stand up to the overwhelming odds of drugs, guns and misery -- brought expressions of outrage from city, education and teachers' union officials and sent tremors through the school and the community where Mr. Daly had been widely admired.

"He was nice to us," said Andrea Dowing, a third grader. "He wanted me to do things, I would do it. I would type for him when he wanted me to."

In an interview with NBC News last year, Mr. Daly told of the challenges and of his vision. "We're dealing with some kids that don't have that inner peace, kids who fight wars within themselves, and they come to school and they don't know how to direct that anger." But, he said, he has seen some of them go on to college. "They're coming from Red Hook and they're overcoming the odds."

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