By Ray O’Hanlon
East Durham became Dodge City for Tommy Furlong Jr. on a May night one year ago.
Furlong, whose parents, Tommy and Yvonne, own the popular Furlong’s bar in the Catskills resort, ran for his life down the town’s main street, zig-zagging and dodging bullets fired by an irate ex-cop armed with two .38 caliber Smith and Wessons.
The onetime Yonkers officer, Neil Wallace, 50, was found guilty of attempted murder and gun possession by a jury in Greene County Courthouse last week.
“It was a nightmare. We were living in awful fear,” Yvonne Furlong said.
She was referring to the several months after the May 20, 2001 shooting during which Wallace, who lives in Freehold, just three miles from East Durham, was free on bail.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
The Furlongs, a well-known Tullamore, Co. Offaly, GAA family, spend the winters in Florida and only last month buried in that state 72-year-old Michael, captain of the New York football team in 1958.
But while the Furlongs lost Michael to a natural illness, the family nearly lost his nephew Tommy Jr. to a bullet. Or a few of them.
The frightening and potentially fatal incident began when Wallace, who retired from the Yonkers force in 1991, began harassing patrons in the bar.
Owner Tommy Furlong told Wallace to desist but was instead struck by him. Furlong, who had suffered a heart attack a short time before, fell to the floor.
Hearing the ruckus downstairs, Tommy Jr. came down and ordered Wallace to leave the bar and never return.
But return he did, brandishing the fully loaded handguns. What followed will live in Yvonne Furlong’s memory for the rest of her days.
Wallace fired six shots inside the bar in the direction of Tommy Jr., who was standing by the kitchen door.
“Had Tommy been at the bar he would not have escaped,” Yvonne Furlong said.
As it happened, Tommy Jr. was standing near a side door. He ran out into the street with Wallace in pursuit.
Furlong, who plays Gaelic football and is quick on his feet, instinctively zig-zagged as he ran along the street.
Wallace, meanwhile, continued to fire shots, five in all, at the fleeing Furlong.
It was 1 a.m. and pitch dark. Furlong was wearing a white shirt. Fearing that it might give him away, he ripped it off and plunged off the road into a ditch and hid behind a tree.
Wallace, who claimed in court that he did not mean to hurt Furlong, only scare him, left the scene but was arrested soon afterward by State Police officers.
Last week, a jury took only two hours to return a guilty verdict. Wallace now faces up to 25 years on the attempted murder conviction and up to 15 years on each of two convictions for second-degree weapons possession. Sentencing will be on July 9.