It’s a sad day for any community when a local hero passes away, especially one whose heroism is as great as that of officer Brian Lennon, who served the Nyack community for many years during the years Nyack had its own police department.
Brian was one of the four Nyack policemen who stopped the U-haul Truck carrying members of the crew who robbed the Brinks Truck at the Nanuet Mall, killing a Brinks Guard and injuring another. The truck which was driven by Kathy Boudin on the afternoon on October 20, 1981, was carrying several armed criminals, who were members of the radical group the Weather Underground.
On that day, when Brian, and his three partners Arthur “Artie” Keenan, Waverly “Chipper” Brown, and Sgt. Edward O’Grady stopped the U-haul, the driver, Boudin, told the officers that they had the wrong vehicle, and for them to put their weapons away because she was afraid. Unfortunately, however, immediately after this conversation, when the cops opened the back doors of the U-Haul, several gunmen emerged firing fully automatic weapons and shot O’Grady and Brown.
Brown died immediately, because one of the gunmen stopped and shot him point blank. O’Grady would later die in surgery at Nyack Hospital, having been mortally wounded during the gun battle, but not until he was able to unload his weapon on the perpetrators. O’Grady was shot, while he was reloading his revolver. Art Keenan was also wounded, but managed to get away and hide behind a tree for cover. Meanwhile, Brian, who was trapped in his cruiser, because the body of O’Grady was leaning against the car door, managed to empty his revolver and his shotgun, while being fired on heavily by several radicals.
That was a dark afternoon and the night had a cold October chill. But this October night, the chill in the air was more of an emotional one.
As I made my way back to Nyack from my evening shift, around midnight, I rushed back to Rockland from Montvale, New Jersey, and not until I reached downtown Nyack did I realize the real grasp of the horrific day that had touched our small community. The downtown in Nyack was busier than a day at Times Square, with plain clothes officers running back and forth from their station on 12 North Broadway where the murder suspects were being held, to various other places and back, and all their faces showed extreme stress from having spent a long day (since the entire department was on alert 24 hours a day) and this after an extremely traumatic day.
I left Nyack right after the suspects were escorted down the newly built ramp at the station House, by Officers John Lavelle, and Stanley Young, and numerous others.
After this grim day in Nyack’s History, I saw Brian several times again, and although he was till an excellent officer, as he always was, one could see the extreme trauma of the horrible experience in his expression; a trauma that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
When I think of Brian, I best remember him as the young policeman in Nyack when I was a teenager, and how this honorable officer always was talking to us kids about our future, and how we should get serious because life is difficult and that we must get prepared for our prospect as adults. On one occasion, as four of us were sitting on a stoop on Broadway—and this memory will always be with me—Brian looked at my friend Dennis and told him that he should talk to me about staying out of trouble and to start getting serious; to stop being a wise kid.
He was always interested in the welfare of the youth of Nyack, even before he became a full-time cop. This, is, how I will always remember Brian. A wonderful, caring gentleman who cared deeply for Nyack’s people, especially the youth.
Brian’s passing is, and forever will be a great loss to the people of Nyack, as well as Rockland County. His influence on me—and many other kids—will forever remain a true gift and honor in the annals of Nyack’s History.
Truly, Nyack has lost a great man who loved his townsfolk, and gave his all for them, each and every time he donned his uniform as a Nyack Police officer; but much more than that. For he was not just a gifted cop’s cop, but a wonderful human being of immense integrity.