Officer Gene Cassidy

On October 22, 1987, a Baltimore Police Officer by the name of Gene Cassidy rolled up on a dark street corner and attempted to arrest Clifton Frazier on outstanding warrants from an assault that had occurred the week prior that left an elderly man blind.  After a short struggle, Officer Cassidy was shot twice in the face by Frazier.

While Officer Cassidy survived his wounds, he was left blind.  On this day in 1988, the case was “put down” by Baltimore Homicide.  All of the evidence led eventually to Clifton Frazier and he was subsequently arrested and charged.

I remember the night that I heard about what happened to Gene Cassidy.  I was just nine years old, and my dad was good friends with Gene’s brother Tom.  Tom and my dad had met during his time with Bell Telephone.  The two had a mutual love for photography, auto racing and Volkswagens.  Our families became close, and we spent quite a bit of time together during the summer when Tom and his family would visit down at the Jersey Shore.

I met Gene about a year and a half later when he came down to the shore with Tom.  My dad and I took Tom and Gene out on our Boston Whaler for a trip up and down the river.  Although Gene could not see, he had a great time on our little trip.  I remember Tom telling him, “Don’t smile, you’ll get bugs in your teeth.”  I think that the reason our families bonded was we shared the same disturbed sense of humor. . .

I recently started reading the book Homicide by David Simon that tells the story of a year that he spent as a journalist with Baltimore’s homicide division.  It’s a very busy one too, handling not only 200+ homicides a year, but also investigating all of the police related shootings that may occur in the city.  Gene’s story is retold in the pages of Homicide and as I read it, I could not help but remember that day late in the season before we put the boat away for the winter that I was able to meet Gene, and it makes me think of what else I would have had to say today, 24 years later, with the life experiences that I have had as a paramedic.

A little big of research about Gene let me know where he is today.  Although his career as a “traditional” police officer was cut short, Gene has made the best of his situation.  Over the years he has many different roles within the Baltimore Police Department’s academy as well as at the University of Baltimore.  His son followed in his footsteps and is attending York College, where both Gene and his wife Patti attended.

I don’t remember the last time I saw Gene’s brother Tom.  It has been quite a few years, but our families still keep in touch, and my parents do their best to get together with Tom and his wife when they come down for vacation every year.

Clifton Frazier was found guilty by a jury of his peers in the shooting of Gene Cassidy.  He was sentenced to a term of life in prison plus twenty years for his crime.

Gene’s story holds many lessons.  The most important one though is the drive that he possesses and his desire to do the best that he can no matter what obstacles are put in front of him.  He continues to be an inspiration to us all.

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