New York Daily News

September 3, 2004

Campaign to keep cop-killer in prison

BY FERNANDA SANTOS DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU

Law enforcement groups from across the country are rallying to keep cop killer Salvatore (Crazy Sal) DeSarno behind bars.

The 45-year-old convict, who gunned down veteran Brooklyn patrolman Cecil Sledge in 1980, will get his first shot at parole at a November hearing.

But his potential release will be met with a fight.

About 500 letters from law enforcement agencies across the country and others have poured into the state's parole division offices in Albany since early August, petitioning the three-member panel to keep the killer behind bars.

Some are typed, form letters. Others are handwritten.

All demand DeSarno, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1981, stay locked inside Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate Fallsburg.

"New York State has to send a firm message that you cannot kill a police officer in cold blood and expect to get out of prison — ever," Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said through a spokesman yesterday.

On Jan. 28, 1980, Sledge, 32, a highly decorated cop, was shot four times when he stopped DeSarno at a traffic light in Canarsie. The 12-year vet was on patrol alone because his partner had called in sick.

DeSarno, on parole from a prison stint for armed robbery, then backed over the cop and sped away, dragging the lifeless body more than a half-mile.

Working against DeSarno will be his violent prison record while serving hard time for the past 23 years.

Since 1989 - when state inmate files were first computerized - DeSarno has racked up about 20 infractions, mostly assaults involving other inmates and weapons possession, a state correction spokeswoman said.

In a 2003 Daily News interview, Sledge's widow, Linda, said the murder of on-duty officers should always be remembered.

"It's important for the families to feel that those who've given their lives — even after 23 years — haven't been forgotten," she said.