By: Keith Dameron, Historian – Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial

Detective Sergeant John Dunleavy, 41, died on Sunday, July 25, 1909, from gunshot wounds received the previous Wednesday evening in the 1500 block of Pine, just before 11 p.m. He had finished his shift and while walking home he picked up his daughter from a friend’s house. Two men approached them. One made an insulting comment to Dunleavy’s daughter and Dunleavy stepped forward, putting her behind him. He was shot, fell to the ground and fired five times at the fleeing men, with no apparent effect. He was rushed to Minnequa Hospital. Night Captain Charles Yund went to the hospital to get descriptions of the men and ordered all the detectives to Bessemer for a police dragnet.

Pueblo Police Chief Sullivan was notified and passed the descriptions to other departments in the state and to the railroads. Dunleavy’s partner that night was Detective Columbo Delliquadri. Just an hour or so earlier Delliquadri had stepped on a stone and sprained his ankle. Dunleavy assisted him to the streetcar line eight blocks away and then finished his shift alone. Investigators believed that the men who shot Dunleavy were planning to ambush both detectives and that Delliquadri’s sprained ankle had prevented an attack on him. Dunleavy had earned a reputation for suppressing gambling and enforcing liquor laws in Bessemer. He was tasked with checking on the pawn shops in the area, and had recovered many stolen items. Sullivan stated that Dunleavy had received “… many Black Hand* letters threatening his life if he didn’t let up on arresting people out his way”.

Dunleavy had been shot three times, in the leg, hip and just below the heart. Surgery was performed but the injuries were too severe and he died three days later at 2:30 a.m. At least 20 suspects were picked up by the police and some were believed to have been involved, however insufficient evidence led to their release from custody. No one was ever tried or convicted for the murder of Detective Sergeant Dunleavy.

John W. Dunleavy was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England in June of 1868. He immigrated to the United States in about 1886 and married Minnie Knape in Pueblo on January 19, 1892. He sold cigars before joining the Pueblo Police Department. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on October 21, 1904, noting that he was from Ireland and England. He was survived by his wife and four children, Edward, 20, Frank, 15, Edith, 11 and Mary, 8; sister Mrs. R. Ryan of Pittsburgh and his brother Edwin.

Services were held on July 28 at St. Francis Xavier Church at Spruce and Logan. Attending were Mayor Fugard, a large contingent of police officers, firemen, city officials, many friends and members of lodges of which Dunleavy was a member. The city council passed a resolution honoring Dunleavy, stating that he was “Brave in life … and surpassingly (sic) so in death.” Burial followed at Roselawn cemetery.

* The Black Hand was an Italian extortion racket that originated in Italy. It operated in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Also known as the Mafia, it operated in Italian immigrant communities in many cities across the country. Their tactics involved sending a letter to a victim threatening bodily harm, arson or murder and demanding a specified amount of money or other action. The letter would be decorated with symbols such as a smoking gun or hangman’s noose and typically signed with a hand imprint or a hand drawn in heavy black ink.

An earlier version of this story was published in the Colorado Emerald Society newsletter, April 2023

EOW: 25 Jul 1909 
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Pueblo Police Department
Pueblo Chieftain – July 22-28, 1909
Ancestry – Library Edition