The Interesting Story of Deadshot Mary

By | February 5, 2017

Mary Shanley was born in Ireland in 1896, and after immigrating to America with her family, made the bold choice to join the NYPD.

Along with a handful of other woman cops, she went to work on undercover beats.

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In her first year on the force, she was assigned to nab fortune-tellers and psychics, professions that were illegal at the time, as it was believed they preyed on vulnerable women (and were practiced mostly by immigrants).

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She was later assigned to an anti-pickpocket beat, cruising around department stores dressed as a typical shopper, sometimes accompanied by her niece as a decoy.

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In 1934, the NYPD began requiring its female officers to carry revolvers. A few years later, Shanley made history when she became the first woman in the NYPD to use her gun in the line of duty, firing a warning shot into the air to halt a suspect fleeing on 53rd Street. (The warning shot would become something of a signature for her throughout her career.)

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She became a minor local celebrity, making appearances in crime blotters and tabloids every time she collared a suspect, eventually earning her the sobriquet “Deadshot Mary.”

Shanley became one of the first women in the NYPD to reach the rank of Detective First Grade. Her career was nearly derailed in 1941 when she was suspended for firing her service weapon while drinking off-duty at a Jackson Heights bar, but she was soon reinstated, and continued busting petty thieves until her retirement in 1957.

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"It's exciting. I'd die if I had to go back to working in an office." ~MARY SHANLEY, 1937

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