Daniel J. Hayes became the City of Ansonia’s first police chief in 1880.
But within months he would pay the ultimate sacrifice while protecting his fellow citizens after being shot while arresting a disorderly drunk.
Hayes died Dec. 27, 1880.
On Tuesday (May 15), the city honored his memory by renaming Railroad Avenue, where he was mortally wounded nearly 140 years ago, as Chief Daniel J. Hayes Drive.
Tuesday’s ceremony was scheduled to coincide with National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
The Valley Indy live-streamed the event on Facebook. Click the play button on the video below to watch:
Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale credited Officer Christopher Kelley and retired Sgt. Randy Giusto with the idea of renaming the street.
The chief thanked Lt. Patrick Lynch, the city’s Board of Police Commissioners and the Board of Aldermen for helping to implement the change.
Hale related the story of how Hayes was at his North State Street home in bed with the flu Dec. 23, 1880 when two sisters of James “Chip” Smith asked the chief to help apprehend their brother, who had drunkenly fired his gun in a saloon earlier in the day.
Hayes, a 34-year-old Irish native and carpenter by trade, set off in search of Smith.
He caught up with him at the Railroad Hotel, located near the train station at 158 Main St.
Smith assured the chief that he would go along with Hayes quietly — only to shoot the chief in the abdomen.
“Although wounded, Chief Hayes took Smith into custody with the help of some bystanders,” Hale said.
“I hope that I’ve killed him and that he’ll go to hell,” Smith reportedly said.
Hayes was taken to a nearby police officer’s home on Main Street.
“The chief suffered terribly over the next several days before losing his life on Dec. 27, 1880,” Hale said.
Smith was found guilty of murder and hanged on the New Haven Green Sept. 2, 1882.
Though he died more than a century ago, Hale said Hayes’ sacrifice still resonates.
“The on-duty death of a police officer has a traumatic and long-lasting effect on a community,” Hale said. “It strikes fear and consternation into many, as well as enormous sadness and terrible loss of one who has taken the oath to protect and serve.”
In reading and researching Hayes’ life, Hale said, he learned that “even though this murder occurred 138 years ago, that same sense of loss was felt by citizens then.”
Mayor David Cassetti said renaming the street will “give meaning to the sorrow and sacrifice of one of our own.”
“His passing was a loss to all of us, to all Ansonians forever,” Cassetti said.