Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Fund, Inc.

August 6, 2018 Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Fund To Recognize The Ultimate Sacrafice of Yarmouth MA Police

Sgt. Sean Gannon & K9 Partner "Nero"

EOW April 12, 2018

Officer Harold L. Vitale

The Story

On June 18, 1985, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Officer Harold Vitale of the Saugus Massachusetts Police Department pulled over a 19-year-old motorist named James Papadinis for running a stop sign. When a routine background check revealed that Papadinis was wanted for other motor vehicle violations, Officer Vitale attempted an arrest. 

As Officer Vitale rested his arm in the opened car window, Papadinis rolled up the window and accelerated the vehicle. As three passengers pleaded with Papadinis to stop, he continued on at speeds of over 40 miles per hour, dragging Officer Vitale more than 1,000 feet and ultimately slamming him into a street sign.  The 14-year police veteran died a few hours later from the injuries he sustained. He was 42 years old.

Papadinis was captured the next morning. He was charged with premeditated first degree murder; however, the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18-20 years. On appeal he was awarded a new trial on a technicality.  At the second trial his conviction was upheld.  Showing no remorse, the second judge again sentenced Papadinis to serve the maximum penalty of 18 to 20 years in prison. "Harold Vitale gave his life so that we all might be safer," said the judge.

Ironically, 10 years prior, Officer Vitale saved his partner's life when a motorist had trapped his partner's arm in a car door and began dragging him. Despite several pleas to stop the vehicle, Officer Vitale was forced to fire his service weapon, wounding the driver while saving his partner's life.

On March 22, 1995, James Papadinis was released from prison after serving less than 10 years for murdering a police officer.

Born in Revere, MA, Harold was one of eight children born to William and Grade Vitale. After his death, Harold's badge, number "17", was retired from the Saugus Police Force. He left behind his wife Eileen and three children, Paul, Michelle, and Jaclyn.

Proud Family Life

Named after one of his uncles, Harold relished being raised in a large, proud Italian American family by his 2 hard working parents.

He attended Revere Public Schools.  After high school he enlisted in the Army and served his Country.  Always possessing a passion for cars and working with his hands, he was assigned to work in the military base motor pool.  Upon completion of his military duty he continued his career working in auto mechanics and at one point acquired his own service station.

His passions in life were his family, helping people and his love for children.  He loved spending time outdoors taking the family camping and enjoying hunting and fishing trips with his friends where he built a second home in Vermont with his own hands assisted by his friends.

Seeking some job security and greater benefits for his family, his eyes turned towards a new career, one with a steady income.  Once again he sought the pride of wearing a uniform. So he set out seeking a new career in law enforcement. 

He became a reserve officer in Revere Police department working with his cousin while he continued to repair the cars of his family and friends.  When the Town of Saugus called with a full time opening, he took it.  Despite having a full time job as a police officer and working details where he could, he continued to moonlight as a part-time mechanic lending a hand to anyone who needed it, more often than not at little or no charge.

Not the oldest, he still set the tone in the family.  And to his friends, he was everyone's best friend.

His legacy will always be measured by how he lived and how many people he helped, not how he died.  The definition of Vitale family pride can be spelled by his name, "HAROLD."