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Police Officer Joseph Paul Zanella | Verona Police Department, Pennsylvania Verona Police Department, Pennsylvania

Police Officer

Joseph Paul Zanella

Verona Police Department, Pennsylvania

End of Watch: Friday, September 19, 1969

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 25

Tour: 2 years, 5 months

Badge # Not available

Military veteran

Cause: Gunfire

Weapon: Handgun; .25 caliber

Offender: Committed suicide in prison

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Police Officer Joseph Zanella was shot and killed when he stopped a jail escapee in a stolen car at the intersection of Allegheny River Boulevard and Plum Street. As Officer Zanella got out of his car he was shot at twice by the suspect who was sitting inside the car he had stolen. The first shot struck a cement wall behind Officer Zanella. The second shot struck Officer Zanella in the heart. Officer Zanella fell to the ground and crawled back to his patrol car where he died.

The suspect had escaped a week earlier from the Allegheny County Work House where he was awaiting sentence for raping a 17 year-old girl. Soon after he killed Officer Zanella, the suspect abandoned his car in a department store parking lot in LeVale, Maryland. Later a 21 year-old woman and her 2 year-old daughter who had been shopping at that store were reported missing. The suspect told the police that he kidnapped and killed them. He said he left their bodies in Ohio and Kansas. He was never charged with their murders. The woman and her daughter were never found. He was recaptured in Iowa three weeks later.

The suspect was convicted of murdering Officer Zanella and sent to Western Penitentiary. On December 10, 1973 the suspect, along with three other inmates, attacked and beat to death Captain Walter Peterson of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. On December 6, 1978 the suspect hanged himself in his cell.

Officer Zanella was a U.S. Army Veteran of the Vietnam War, Verona Firefighter, and had served with the Verona Police Department for nearly two and half years. He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, parents, and siblings.

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Related Line of Duty Deaths

Captain Walter L. Peterson
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Monday, December 10, 1973
Cause: Assault

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Thanks, Chuck, that is a wonderful compliment to the memory of Joe Zanella. I worked as a Pittsburgh Police officer for 14 years and I still remember the day he died.

Larry Lantz
Pittsburgh Police
September 19, 2013


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