Feb. 24, 2020 By Rob MacKay and Christian Murray
A memorial service is being held at St. Sebastian Church this Friday in honor of a fallen New York City transit officer from Woodside who was gunned down on the streets of Manhattan 50 years ago.
Patrolman Michael Melchiona, a St. Sebastian School graduate who grew up at 53-13 Skillman Ave., was shot dead on the job on Feb. 28, 1970 while in pursuit of a gunman.
Melchiona was 29-years-old at the time of his death and left behind a wife, a two-year-old and a five-week old baby who had been baptized at St. Sebastian’s just days before his violent death.
Melchiona was on foot patrol on the day of the grisly event.
The shooting took place shortly after he encountered John H. Giragosian in the bathroom at the 50th Street station in Manhattan.
Giragosian was illegally smoking a cigarette in the bathroom and Melchiona approached him with the intention of issuing him a summons.
Melchiona asked the killer for identification.
Giragosian, a 45-year-old man with a criminal record including an arrest for armed robbery, responded by pointing a .22 caliber handgun at Melchiona’s head. The gunman then led Melchiona out of the restroom and forced him to lie down on the ground.
Giragosian then took Melchiona’s service weapon and ran away.
A frantic pursuit ensued in plain daylight on Seventh Avenue between 50th and 51st streets.
The killer jumped into a yellow cab and ordered the driver to drive. Patrolman Melchiona continued to chase after the suspect on foot. Dozens of officers would arrive on the scene and dozens of shots fired.
Giragosian fired shots out of the window of the cab and fatally shot Melchiona in the neck. The gunman was killed by another officer during a multi-bullet fusillade that also injured another cop, a cab driver, and a passerby.
Footage of the scene was captured at the time by an onlooker that has since been posted to Youtube.
Melchiona’s funeral was held at St. Sebastian’s Church just days later, where about 2,000 people attended, according to a New York Times article at the time.
He was posthumously awarded the NYPD’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.
A plaque went up at the 50th Street station in 2018 in his honor and in October 2019 the NYPD Transit Bureau’s K9 Unit named a canine after him.
St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church will commemorate his death on Friday, Feb. 28, at 10:45 am.
After the memorial mass, a reception will take place at the Knights of Columbus George W. Hudson Council #3710 at 49-18 Queens Blvd.