Blue Legacy: The Stories Behind the Badge is a new docu-series delving into the harrowing stories of courageous cops protecting their communities. Jeanna Spawn, Executive in Charge of Production and Director of Blue Legacy said, “This series uncovers the remarkable stories of some of our nation’s heroic police officers, how they made a difference, and how their actions live on.”
The Blue Legacy series is the brainchild of Jeanna Spawn, a television production executive in Hollywood and her husband, Mark Spawn, a former Chief of Police and law enforcement consultant who said, “This is a passion project for us. We have been developing a series, which shows the positive side of the work of law enforcement. When we started looking into these cases, we realized that for some people, these incidents were just a headline. But for others, they are a defining moment in their lives. Those are the stories we want to share”.
Mark said that the show brings a new awareness to viewers about the cases profiled in the series. He said, “There’s the story you know, the story you think you know, and the story you’ve never heard.” Jeanna added, “It’s so inspiring to hear the outpouring of appreciation for the sacrifices made by the officers in our first story – it’s been decades, but they are still remembered today.
In the pilot episode, the California-based husband-wife team will be heading back to Mark’s home state of New York to produce the story of the 1969 murder of two police officers who stopped a man suspected of armed robbery. Though the case is almost 50 years old, viewers will see, hear and feel the riveting first-hand accounts from the people who were directly involved – and whose lives were changed forever. Jeanna commented that the integrity of such a production depends on getting the first hand facts from the people who were there. She said, “We will be getting the story from one of the first police officers on the scene, the police dispatcher on duty that night, eyewitnesses to the shooting, and a victim who was kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to drive the killer in her car with her two children in the back seat.”
Telling the real story from those who lived it. Jeanna brings her executive level production talent to the table - a career in television and film, she also provides script development, direction, programming, social media strategy, and budgeting management services, With a global network of fellow police executives amassed over a 35 year career, Mark has access to executives and newsmakers to get the unfiltered stories behind the headlines.
Mark Spawn started out as a street cop more than 30 years ago, working his way up the ranks to detective and as Chief of Police. Now he is law enforcement consultant, producer, and on-screen talent for a variety of police related topics.
Jeanna Spawn has worked in the film and television industry for over 20 years. She brings a wide array of knowledge and experience to the table and has developed and produced content for both scripted and unscripted projects. She has a passion for bringing projects to life from concept, to development, through post production.
Blue Legacy Host Mark Spawn introduces viewers to a new docu-series which delves into the stories of some of our nation's most courageous police officers.
Sunday, September 8, 2019 marks the 50th year following the tragic incident which led to the deaths of Police Officer Robert A. Mumford and Police Chief Thomas P. Reilly killed in the line of duty in Sherrill, New York. The tragedy from fifty years ago is the subject of the pilot episode of a docu-series titled, Blue Legacy: The Stories Behind the Badge. The documentary, currently in production, will include firsthand accounts from victims and witnesses to the 1969 case, along with family members of the deceased officers and others.
At about 9:30 PM on that fateful night, Martin Fitzpatrick, held up the attendant of Finn’s Gulf Station in Canastota, New York at gunpoint stealing his wallet and the station’s receipts, about $400. Police were immediately called which resulted in a radio alert by Oneida Police to other police cars in the region, including Sherrill Police about 7 miles away. At about 9:48 PM, Mumford and Reilly stopped a car matching the description of the wanted vehicle and interviewed the driver who denied knowledge of the robbery. It appears that Fitzpatrick was being cooperative and providing some story to the officers which caused Chief Reilly to doubt that they had stopped the right car. At 9:54 PM, Reilly radioed to the dispatcher that he thought they had the wrong man, and that Fitzpatrick was being cooperative. But during his interaction with the officers, Fitzpatrick apparently became aware that the Canastota police were bringing the victim to Sherrill to identify him, a procedure known by police as a “show up”. About four minutes later, Fitzpatrick drew a pistol, shot both officers, and sped away in his car. Chief Reilly was able to reach his police radio and at 9:58 PM, broadcast that he and Officer Mumford had been shot. Wayne Coston was on duty as the Desk Sergeant at Oneida police headquarters that night and he remembers taking Chief Reilly’s radio call. Coston said, “It’s been fifty years and I will never get that out of my mind, he said, ‘We’re shot, we’re shot, God help me, please hurry…’” The injured Reilly had also written down Fitzpatrick’s name and license plate number in his police notebook.
Fitzpatrick fled the shooting and drove to Munnsville where he found a darkened home in a remote area. It was just minutes after the shooting in Sherrill when he knocked on the door of the occupant, Marie DiLapi, asking for a glass of water and directions. DiLapi said, “He wanted to know how to get to Syracuse, and I gave him directions via Route 5, but he didn’t want to go that way.” Mrs. DiLapi was home alone with her two daughters ages 4 and 6. After a short conversation, Fitzpatrick forced his way into the home brandishing his handgun. He checked out the home and the bedroom where the two little girls slept. He then told Mrs. DiLapi that she was going to drive him to Syracuse in her car, likely knowing that a large police dragnet would be looking for him in his own car. After all, he had been stopped once after committing the armed robbery in Canastota, and now he had shot two police officers. Fitzpatrick forced Mrs. DiLapi and her two girls into DiLapi’s car and ordered her to drive back roads to Syracuse. “When we got near Jamesville I was really scared that he would kill us and dump us over a hillside”, she remembered. “But we continued on to Syracuse where he directed me where to drive until he got out.” Mrs. DiLapi and her girls were finally free. She drove around until she was able to alert someone to call police.
Mrs. DiLapi’s information would turn out to be a critical clue in the investigation and manhunt for Fitzpatrick as the search was previously focused toward the areas east of Sherrill, rather than west toward Syracuse.
Deputy Fran Broski worked for the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office at the time and was on duty that evening back in 1963. “I was in Vernon when the call came in that there were two Sherrill police officers down. I drove to the scene and found that the ambulances were loading Bob and Tom to get them to the hospital.” Additional police vehicles arrived on scene and Broski took off in the direction pointed out by witnesses to search for the suspect. “I started searching Route 5 and went all the way to Kirkville, and then I checked side roads looking for the car.” A civilian witness, John Orr, was across the street at a gas station he owned, when the officers were shot. Orr’s stepson, Bruce Rochester, remembered the night. “I was talking with my stepdad out in front of the gas station and we had seen that the police had a car stopped. All of a sudden we heard gunshots, and my stepdad instinctively took off after the fleeing car.” Rochester described his father as a hard-charger, former military and a sitting justice of the peace for nearby Vernon. “But my stepfather was driving a Chevy Blazer K5 and couldn’t keep up with him.”
The harrowing night of September 8, 1969 is still remembered to this day by many in Sherrill, New York. A park has since been named in honor of the fallen officers, Reilly-Mumford Park, where various community events are held throughout the year. A monument at the park commemorates their service and sacrifice. We remember the heroism of not only the police officers, but also two civilians who found themselves in danger: a young mom kidnapped at gunpoint thinking on her feet and trying to make sure she can get her daughters to safety; and the gas station owner and justice of the peace who tore after a suspect knowing that the man had just shot at police.
Press release by: Mark Spawn and Jeanna Spawn of The Spawn Group, LLC, Costa Mesa, California. Contact: BlueLegacyTV@SpawnGroup.com; Sept. 5, 2019
The story of the murders of Officer Mumford and Chief Reilly are the subject of the pilot episode of Blue Legacy: The Stories Behind The Badge. Stay tuned to this website and our social media feeds for updates.
Hometown News Coverage
New York Police Chief's magazine
Spectrum News (New York) story about tragedy in Sherrill, NY in 1969
WKTV News Station in Utica, NY covers the docu-series now in production, Blue Legacy: The Stories Behind the Badge. The premiere episode revisits the rampage of a lone gunman in 1969, the lives affected, and the community that was shaken to its core.