Pat's Cafe, a tiny corner bar in the Lower Northeast, is regarded as something of a sacred space by local residents and men and women in blue.
It is the place where Officer Gary Skerski, a beloved community-relations cop, lost his life when he interrupted an armed robbery on a warm spring night four years ago. An old wreath, a pair of decaying roses and a few small candles still mark the spot outside the bar, at Castor Avenue and Arrott Street, where Skerski was gunned down.
Imagine, then, how cops and locals felt yesterday when word spread that an on-duty police officer stole money from the bar's safe early Tuesday, law-enforcement sources said.
The cop, who was joined by another on-duty officer and a third man in civilian clothes, hung out in the empty bar for about 40 minutes, watched TV and even drank beer, the sources said.
At one point, the sticky-fingered cop was caught on camera as he reached into the safe, grabbed a wad of cash and shoved the money into his pants, said a source who viewed the footage.
"It's cut and dry," the source said. "There's no question what he did."
A police spokesman confirmed that Internal Affairs detectives are investigating the incident.
Although officials otherwise stayed mum about the case yesterday, some details shook loose about how the burglary unfolded.
A security alarm went off inside New Vision Auto Detailing and Auto Repairs, a garage behind Pat's, about 4 a.m., said a repair-shop employee.
Two uniformed cops went to the shop and found no signs of trouble. Then, about 4:25 a.m., they apparently ventured over to Pat's, a one-story brick building with two security cameras pointed at its front doors.
All around the front of the building, there are reminders of Sker-ski, who was killed by Solomon Montgomery on May 8, 2006.
A bronze memorial plaque adorns the pavement, a few steps from the front door; a wreath and old candles are situated near the side door where Skerski was shot, and a sign that reads, "Farewell to our hero Officer Skerski RIP 7379," hangs off the side of the building.
The two cops walked past the tributes to the fallen hero and noticed the doors that lead to the bar's basement were unlocked, sources said. It was unclear, however, if they entered the bar through the basement.
Once they were inside, the officers made themselves at home. They were joined by a third man, but it was unclear if he was also a cop, sources said.
One of the cops eventually made his way to a side room where the safe is stored.
"He's the only one that takes any money," a source who watched the video said. "The camera is right there. I don't know what he was thinking."
The Daily News was unable to reach Pat Holloran, owner of Pat's Cafe, for comment. Employees of the bar declined to comment last night.
John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, also declined to comment.