July 4 will always have a somber meaning for long-time residents of Broome County and especially local law enforcement officers.

It has been 20 years since a peaceful, sunny Independence Day was shattered by word that a Broome County Sheriff's Deputy had been brutally gunned down in a Kirkwood park. It was the first death of a Broome County Sheriff's Deputy in the line of duty.

Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)
Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)

Binghamton-area media began to learn of the murder of Deputy Kevin Joseph Tarsia hours after the 36-year-old had been shot numerous times by two men at Grange Park.

The 13-year veteran had noticed a suspicious vehicle at the park at around 3:45 a.m. July 4, 2002 and saw three men transferring guns, just stolen from a business just over the border in Great Bend, Pennsylvania, from one vehicle to another.

Two of the suspects opened fire on the Deputy, by some accounts, as many as fifteen rounds, and ran over him with a vehicle before stealing Tarsia's service weapon and unspecified items from the Broome County Sheriff's Office patrol car.

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One of those suspects was notorious killer David Sweat, who had a long history in Broome County's criminal justice system starting as a teen. Another of the murderers was Sweat's cousin, Jeffrey Nabinger Junior.

The three suspects were captured after a three-day manhunt.

Sweat and Nabinger were charged with first-degree murder while the third, Shawn Duvaul, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon. There were also burglary charges against all three in Pennsylvania in connection with the theft of the guns.

Sweat and Nabinger pleaded guilty, days apart, to the murder about a year and two weeks after Tarsia's killing.

Sweat and Nabinger were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

David Sweat and Richard Matt (New York State Police via Getty Images)
David Sweat and Richard Matt (New York State Police via Getty Images)

On June 6, 2015, Sweat and another convicted killer serving time at Clinton County Correctional Center in Dannemora, Richard Matt, escaped.

For three weeks, a massive search covered large areas of New York State before Matt was shot and killed by a New York State Trooper and Sweat was shot and wounded and taken back into custody within sight of the Canadian border.

Sweat was returned to prison after recovering from his wounds.

In April, 2022 Sweat was reported to be on his second hunger strike since his return to prison. The latest strike was in protest of his transfer from an Ulster County Prison to the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County.

Those who remember Deputy Tarsia's sacrifice have said they hope the notoriety of the killers' "Escape from Dannemora", that has been the point of several documentaries over the years, does not overshadow the story of the first officer in the history of the Broome County Sheriff's Office to give his life in the line of duty.

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