The Year The July 4th Fireworks Turned Real

The death of Andrew Chapo earlier this month brought back memories of the most tragic July 4th in Westport’s history.

Around 2 a.m. that morning in 1961 Brendan McLaughlin — a former Marine working as a New York advertising executive — shot and killed his father during a family argument.

blog - Westport PoliceThe murder took place in the McLaughlins’ old Victorian house on Gorham Island — the site today of a 40,000-square foot office building.

McLaughlin fled.  An hour before dawn he burst into the police station on Jesup Road.  He pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at 2 policemen behind the front desk, wounding Donald Bennette.

Officers chased him into the parking lot, where he shot Chapo.  A shootout ensued; McLaughlin was wounded.

Chapo and Bennette recovered.  McLaughlin died several weeks later.

The police station lobby was renovated in 1988.  Mindful of the July 4th tragedy, greater security measures were installed.

Chapo achieved the rank of lieutenant.  While on the force, he helped gain improved pension benefits for police officers.

A memorial service for Chapo is set for July 10 (United Methodist Church, 2 p.m.) — almost 48 years to the day after his awful Independence Day.

(Thanks to Woody Klein’s Westport, Connecticut history for some of the information in this post.)

2 responses to “The Year The July 4th Fireworks Turned Real

  1. You wanna hear a REALLY detailed account?
    Ask Ron Malone…he shared the tale with me one day.
    Clayton & Mary Chalfont had framed Wilmont’s painting of Gorham Island for me and told me about the shooting and the rumors of a ghost on the island. They sent me to Ron for the full account.

  2. Thanks, Dan.

    I look at that day as a life changing moment. I could have been 8 years old, without a Father. I treasure the fact that I had 48 more years with him.

    A side note is that we were building our new home on Blue Coat Lane when this happened. Although my Dad was thankful for surviving the shooting, he was frustrated that he couldn’t do some of the work around the construction as he had planned.