Mike Sheehan passed away at the New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital on 8 P.M. Friday night after a long battle with cancer, he was 71 years old. He is survived by his wife Denise and daughter Clair.
The former detective was known for investigating the infamous “Central Park Five” and the “Preppy Killer” Robert Chambers. Sheehan joined the NYPD in 1969 and served on the force for 23 years before retiring and becoming a reporter for Fox 5 News.
“He was a great detective,” NYPD Detectives Endowment Association president Michael Palladino told the New York Daily News. “He was one of those old-time detectives that people write the books and make the movies about.” Mike was undergoing treatment for cancer and suffering from kidney problems at the time of his death.
The detective made headlines recently after he was portrayed in When They See Us, a Netflix series that details the “Central Park Five” story. Sheehan and his colleagues received criticism after the series, which portrays the investigation as an attempt by the NYPD and city prosecutors to coerce the young men into confessions, debuted on Netflix. Mike Sheehan is portrayed in the show by William Sadler.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mike Was a Well-Known Crime Reporter in New York
In 1993, 3 years after leaving NYPD, Mike Sheehan became a reporter for local news station Fox 5. Mike covered crime stories in New York City.
He worked as a reporter from 1993 – 2009 and became a staple of local morning television in New York City. After being let go in 2009, he stayed in the industry, becoming a board member of SAG-AFTRA where, according to his LinkedIn, he “Serves as elected member of Board of Directors representing Actors, broadcasters and performers working in the New York area. One union serving the needs of dedicated professionals.”
2. He Crashed His Car into a Police Horse While Under the Influence in 2009
Mike’s career as news reporter met an abrupt end after the detective hit a police horse in 2009. Mike was allegedly driving his 2008 Mercury at 10 PM when he crashed into a Mounted Unit horse on N. Moore Street in New York City. The crash shattered Sheehan’s driver side window and injured the officer and his horse, who suffered cuts, bruises and scrapes to the hind thigh and knee.
Sheehan was arrested after refusing a breathalyzer at the scene of the crime. The investigating officers said he was slurring his words and smelled like booze. Sheehan denied the allegations and claimed that the horse ran into him. “It is Mr. Sheehan’s position that the horse ran into his car,” his lawyer Thomas Monaghan said in 2009. “He did nothing wrong. Mr. Sheehan is going to be vindicated.”
Mike was eventually sentenced to five days of community service, lost his driver’s license for 90 days and was fined $500. Sheehan left his job at Fox 5 News shortly after the incident.
3. He Denied Accusations of Coercion in The “Central Park Five” Case
There’s a scene from When They See Us where Mike is seen having lunch and a beer with reporters, defending himself and his colleagues from wrongdoing in the Central Park Five Case. This dramatized interview actually took place back in 2002 when Mike spoke to The New York Post about the controversial investigation. “All this stuff about coercion really pisses me off. Do you honestly think that we — detectives with more than 20 years in, family men with pensions — would risk all of that so we could put words in the mouth of a 15-year-old kid? Absolutely not.” Sheehan told reporters as he ate lunch.
“That’s your biggest fear: You never want to put an innocent person in jail.” Mike told reporters, “Mother of God! I didn’t worry much on this one. Because they’re telling us where they were. They are telling us – the sequence may be off, but they’re essentially telling us the same stuff.”
4. Mike Avoided Much of the Backlash from When They See Us
The Netflix show When They See Us has caused a significant backlash for most of the living investigative team from the “Central Park Five” case. The show portrays NYPD detectives, including Sheehan, and chief investigator Linda Fairstein as coercing the teens into confessions while knowingly ignoring the facts of the case.
Linda Fairstein has received most of the backlash. The show portrays her as the leader trying to push a false narrative in the face of contradictory evidence. She was recently dropped by her publisher following the show and has deleted her social media accounts after receiving significant criticism.
Sheehan and the other detectives also received some criticism but have largely been ignored by the media.
5. Mike Sheehan’s Home Was Robbed in New York City in 2016
After getting out of a cab in front of his apartment, Mike twisted his knee and started hobbling up to his door. Three thieves witnessed this and pretended to “help” Mike up the stairs. One of the thieves distracted him while the two others entered his home and stole $11,000 in valuables including a MacBook Pro laptop, sapphire wedding wing, 2 Michael Kors watches, and a Breitling watch. Michael was unharmed during the incident.