Tonawanda News

November 10, 2012

Storied service

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — When Kenmore Police Chief Carl LaCorte started at the Kenmore Police department 44 years ago, his job — and the village — were much different.

“It was a quiet, sleepy little hollow,” LaCorte, of Williamsville, said. “It’s a lot busier now.”

Back then, when residents wanted to call the station, they went to call boxes located on Military and Sheridan.

When officers checked a license plate or an individual’s warrant background, the information was sent via teletype to the Sheriff’s office and the results took three days. 

With officers now being able to check plates from a computer in their vehicle, LaCorte has seen hundreds of improvements from his first day on the job. 

And in less than a week, the experienced veteran will be retiring.

“I am ready to take some time off,” LaCorte said.

After more than four decades of hard work, he deserves it.

LaCorte reminisced back to his first days as on officer in 1968. 

“I didn’t even have a radio then,” he said. 

As a rookie, he operated the switchboard at the station, in addition to spending eight hours per month making the department’s own bullets with the other officers.

Since then, LaCorte has held every rank in the department, including the position of a detective.

“That was my favorite job,” he said. “It was challenging and constantly having to use your brain. It was fun.”

A few of the cases LaCorte dealt with as a detective stand out — namely a homicide that’s been named the “911 Murder” that occurred in 1976.

The murder occurred right when the capability to call 911 began.

“If you had a certain exchange, it would ring in the City of Buffalo,” LaCorte said. “The dispatcher was supposed to ask where you were calling from, but this one made an error.”

That morning on Oct. 25, an Italian woman living on Victoria Boulevard, Amalia DeLong, called 911 to report a robber in her home at around 9:29 a.m. She had seen him in a hallway while bathing her young children.

The dispatcher in Buffalo answered the phone, but instead of clarifying where she was, sent authorities to Victoria Avenue in Buffalo.

“We lost thirteen minutes because of that,” LaCorte said.

In that time, the woman was stabbed by the robber seven times, with a fatal wound in her neck inflicted at about 9:38 p.m.

Had the system worked, DeLong likely would have lived.

The case made international news in the victim’s home country. In just three days, Kenmore Police located the 18-year-old suspect, who confessed to LaCorte and spent years in prison.

DeLong’s family sued Erie County for the mishap and were awarded $1 million. The murder acted as a catalyst for improving the 911 system, which was unveiled in 1980.

“Even now, because of that, I train my officers to ask where the person is calling from,” LaCorte said. “Because what pops up isn’t always correct.” 

He’s seen a great deal of interesting cases just like that one, including a shooting on Military Road involving the biker gang the Kingsmen. Two were killed.

“I counted 20 bullet holes in that house,” he said. 

With many of those stories to tell after 44 years on the job, his colleagues are sad to see him go.

“I worked very closely with him,” Assistant Chief Peter Breitnauer, who will replace LaCorte, said. “It’s been a great time and we have really improved.”

LaCorte doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement, but hopes to continue teaching at the police academy and spend more time with his family.

“Now is the time to enjoy it all,” he said.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.