Patrick Daly, 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 violence, was shot and killed, December 17, 1992 as he searched for a missing pupil in a crime-ridden housing project. The authorities said they believed he was caught in a crossfire between drug gangs.
Patrick Daly, the 48-year-old principal of Public School 15 at 71 Sullivan Street in the notorious Red Hook waterfront district, whose quiet 26-year struggle on behalf of his pupils had been featured in news articles 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.
Mr. Daly was walking on a rain-slickened mall of barren concrete and grassy plots, surrounded by the dreary, red-brick sprawl of the Red Hook Houses, when the gunfire crackled shortly before noon, the authorities said. He fell to the pavement, shot once in the chest by a 9-millimeter slug, and said, “Thank You” Mr. Daly was bleeding profusely, but it was hopeless.
Someone called an ambulance and Mr. Daly was taken to Long Island College Hospital. Doctors tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at 12:10 P.M. The slaying, 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 spent his whole career and was widely admired.
He was remember as a kind man who loved the children of the community, who loved the families and never feared the elements in Red Hook. He would often walk children home from school if the child wasn’t feeling well or there was no phone at home.
Students were known to say to their parents “Hurry, I want to go to school and be with Mr. Daly.” Others recalled a principal who knew every pupil in his school, who eschewed public speeches for quiet conversations, who was the first to arrive and last to leave each day, who could soothe injured feelings and dispel hopelessness, and whose often-stated goal was to help children find “inner peace.”