TRIBUTE: When they consider true heroes, crimefighters in North Jersey invariably include a lawman from just across the state line who single-handedly captured a trio of self-proclaimed revolutionaries after they killed two police officers and a guard following a $1.6 million armored car robbery.
Alan Colsey, who died Wednesday at 69, had an impressive law enforcement career. He helped Rockland law enforcement computerize police records, get mobile data terminals in patrol cars and establish a radio system for first responders.
Yet it was the Nyack native’s heroism on Oct. 20, 1981 that most remember.
Black Liberation Army members Judith Clark, David Gilbert and Samuel Brown gunned down Brinks guard Peter Paige during the robbery at the Nanuet Mall that day.
They also shot killed Nyack Police Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown and Sgt. Edward O’Grady at a New York State Thruway entrance ramp roadblock in Nyack.
The trio had robbed several armored cars in the area as a means, they said, of financing poor people of color and establishing a Black nation in the South.
They were on Broadway in Nyack after the Brinks truck robbery when they crashed their vehicle near Sixth Avenue – and encountered Colsey.
Colsey, who became chief of police a year earlier in the small waterfront village of South Nyack-Grand View, kept his gun trained on them -- ignoring a ruse by Clark as she tried reaching for a weapon -- as he kneeled behind his police car. Backups arrived soon after and took the killers into custody.
The trio and several others involved in the incident were eventually convicted. Clark, the getaway driver, was paroled two years ago this month after serving 38 years for triple murder. Gilbert and Brown continue to serve life sentences.
Colsey remained as chief until 2004, when he retired after more than 30 years in law enforcement to become an adjunct professor and director of an MBA program at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.
He’d also served since his retirement as a special advisor on public safety technology to the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department.
Colsey, who more recently lived with his wife, Virginia, in Valley Cottage, also obtained masters degrees in Criminal Justice/Computer Applications from Iona College and Business from St. Thomas Aquinas College.
Among many fond remembrances, Mary Anne Evangelilst said that Colsey “cared for and respected all of the South Nyack community and you knew it … every day … in every way… He set the tone for every member of his department — professional and yet caring — and it showed.”
"Alan was a truly dedicated professional with tremendous impact not only on South Nyack but the entire county, and his second career in education added to his lasting impact toward making the world a safer place,” retired Chief of Detectives Peter Modafferi of the District Attorney's Office said.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
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