Patrol Officer James Gatzounas

Patrol Officer James Gatzounas

Holyoke Police Department, Massachusetts

End of Watch Saturday, January 1, 1977

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James Gatzounas

Officer James Gatzounas died after being assaulted as he and other officers responded to a fight at a New Year's Eve street party. As Officer Gatzounas attempted to place one of the suspects under arrest he was repeatedly kicked and punched, and he went into cardiac arrest.

Two suspects, ages 19 and 17, were charged with first degree murder. When Officer Gatzounas' autopsy revealed he died of cardiac arrest instead of injuries from the beating, the charges were reduced to manslaughter.

Officer Gatzounas had been with the agency for 18 months and had previously served with the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was survived by his wife and child.


  • Age 29
  • Tour 1 year, 6 months
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Person
  • Offender Charged with manslaughter

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Back in the 70’s there was very little known about high cholesterol, and tests were not routinely performed during a physical . The physicals performed by doctors today may have flagged the need for statin drugs to lower his cholesterol, but that was not routine then. The autopsy showed that Officer Gatzounas suffered a heart attack without taking into account the beating and kicking his body suffered, specifically about his chest. He was black and blue.
Imagine how you would feel if this happened to your loved one? Thugs beating Officer Jim down until his heart collapsed qualifies being charged with first degree murder? Any person in these circumstances would have a high probability of heart damage.
The D.A.s office reduced the charges stating any person with his cholesterol issue could have had a heart attack running up a flight of stairs is definitely not right! His fellow police officers unable to get through the raucous crowd enabled the Thugs to continue kicking and punching this man.
He died at the scene because the severe beatings brought on the attack. They never let up and he didn’t die climbing up stairs.
When will we wake up and uphold the laws of right from wrong?

Enforce our laws in America
Enforce our laws in America

January 4, 2019

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