The Patrick Bannon Case:
Murder On Bell Boulevard
Patrick Bannon was an Elmhurst boy gone bad. A graduate of prestigious
Regis High School, Bannon opted in the summer of 1992 to pass on college
for a career as a bar bouncer at the Palm Club on Bell Boulevard in
Friends and associates described Bannon as a
“wannabe,”… a young man hoping to work his way into the world of
organized crime. Regardless of what he wanted to be, Bannon’s actions
in the early hours of July 18, 1992 made him just one thing – a
Bannon took on a separate personality when he
stepped into his job as a bouncer. Bannon, aka “Rico,” seemed to
truly believe he owned the nights – and ruled Bell Boulevard. That
alter ego erupted in deadly fashion that night in July, ending in a
blaze of gunfire.
City Housing cop Paul Heidelberger was out
with friends that night. The group stopped at the T-Birds Lounge on
Bell, where Heidelberger spotted his friend’s brother embroiled in a
nasty dispute. Heidelberger, described as the “ultimate peacemaker,”
took the man out to the street to calm the situation. Moments later, a
crowd swelled onto Bell Boulevard and “all hell broke loose,”
Two blocks away, Bannon spotted the ruckus –
and his boss from the Palm Club in the midst of it. He left the Palm
Club and raced down the boulevard, he said, “to break it up.” At
some point, Bannon was struck in the head with a bottle. Furious and
bleeding, he turned and, mistakenly, fingered Heidelberger as his
Bannon raced back to the club, garnered help
from a co-worker, and stormed down Bell Boulevard toward T-Birds in his
Lincoln Towncar – driving into oncoming traffic. He stepped on the
brake outside T-Birds after spotting Heidelberger, reached into the
car’s glove compartment for his 9mm, and stepped onto the boulevard
– firing one round from the weapon into the air.
He fired round after round as he stepped to the
curb, killing T-Birds’ patron Stephen Moran and injuring a second man.
Bannon then turned his rage toward Heidelberger, striking him once and
paralyzing him from the neck down.
As the young cop lay bleeding, dying on the
street, Bannon walked over to him, lifted his head and, despite the
young cop’s pleas, Bannon pressed the gun to Heidelberger’s head and
fired – emptying its magazine. Bannon then dropped the cop’s head to
the ground, got back into his car, and silently drove away. He headed to
his home, where he stashed clothes, guns and ammunition into the trunk
of the Lincoln and fled.
Bannon’s disappearance set off a six-week
manhunt. Police turned on the heat along Bell Boulevard, applying
pressure and increased enforcement along the strip. Bannon’s photo and
the story of the murders ran on America’s Most Wanted. Five days after
the broadcast, Bannon surrendered to authorities.
In 1994, a Queens jury found Bannon guilty of
murdering Heidelberger and Moran, and shooting the third victim. He was
sentenced to 30 years to life behind bars.
A statement Bannon chose to run underneath his
photo in his high school yearbook read: “Man’s own worst enemies are
those dark forces and those unruly natures pinned-up inside him.”
In closing statements to the court, prosecutor
Robert Masters said, “He never meant it to happen. But this was,
indeed, something Mr. Bannon prophesized eight years ago.
“He was unable to control those dark forces
and those unruly natures pinned-up inside himself,” Masters said.
Bannon is currently housed at the Clinton
Correctional Facility in upstate New York – minutes from the Canadian
Two appeals filed on his behalf were denied.
Bannon is awaiting a decision on a third appeal. He is not eligible to
apply for parole until 2019.