Detectives' Endowment Association, Inc. — Paul DiGiacomo, President

The DEA Honor Roll

Official Line of Duty Deaths

James A. Donegan

James Donegan

Rank: Detective

Shield Number: 1338

Command: 071 Detective Squad

Date of Death: 10/15/1964

Cause of Death: Shot During Domestic Violence Run

On October 15, 1964, at approximately 9:00 p.m., a call came in from the Rev. William H. Lothrop of the Calvary Baptist Church to the 71 Precinct about a man who had assaulted his wife and threatened to kill her. The Reverend had previously given marriage counseling to the couple that included a 35-year-old, ex-convict named Donald B. Guyette who was a former mental patient. He was also a steeplejack who collected guns as a hobby.

Detective Salvatore Potenza and Detective James A. Donegan of the 12th Detective District went to where the con was staying at an apartment at 1632 Hendrickson Street, in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn. Their intention was to speak with him about his family dispute, but at approximately 12:15 a.m., when the Detectives knocked, the subject opened fire through the door. Both Detectives were fatally wounded. The Detectives were able to return six shots, but according to the New York Times, Donegan fell through the door, and Potenza fell backward into an alleyway. They both expired at the scene. Neighbors called the precinct to report the gunfight.

The perp then stole the Detectives’ service weapons and fled to his wife’s house on Hawthorne Street. He forced his way in, but assured her he wouldn’t harm her. He told his wife to get his son on the phone in Chicago where the wife took the child for protection. Guyette said goodbye to his son and called Rev. Lothrop to confess. Guyette told his wife what he had done and asked his ex-wife to read to him from the 51st Psalm. He then put a gun to his head and killed himself with one of the Detectives’ stolen firearms.

38-year-old Det. James Donegan was appointed to the force in November of 1950. Family members report he followed his brothers into the United States Navy and saw action on the carrier Randolph. He was a big sports fan who, said his relatives, would have loved to have seen two of his nephews make it to the NFL, which they did. He was eulogized in a Mass at St. Ephrem’s Church on Ft. Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn on October 20, 1964. He was then interred at St. John’s Cemetery in Queens. Det. Donegan was survived by his father, two brothers, and a sister.

35-year-old Det. Salvatore Potenza was appointed to the force on May 16, 1955. He had previously served at the 13th Precinct, the 73rd Precinct, Patrol Borough Brooklyn, and Brooklyn North, the 70th Precinct, and the 63 Squad, before he was killed.

Det. Potenza was buried on October 19, 1964 at Pinelawn National Cemetery following a Mass at St. Sylvester’s Church at Grant and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn. He was survived by his wife, who passed away in 2008, and three daughters, four sisters, two brothers and many other family members.

Both Detectives were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by Mayor Robert Wagner. On October 15, 2014, a memorial plaque was re-dedicated at the 71st Precinct stationhouse at 421 Empire Boulevard in Brooklyn marking the 50th year since the deaths of these hero Detectives.




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