Richard J. Flaherty, also known as “The Giant Killer”, was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, a former CIA operative, and a homeless informant. He died on May 9, 2015, at the age of 69, after being hit by a car in a suspected hit-and-run. His death was shrouded in mystery and controversy, as he left behind a trail of secrets and unanswered questions.
A Life of Courage and Adventure
Richard J. Flaherty was born on November 28, 1945, in Stamford, Connecticut, to Richard and Martha Flaherty. He had a younger brother, Trey, who is also an educator. Richard inherited Irish ancestry from his grandparents, who were born in the Aran Islands and Feakle, Ireland.
Richard was diagnosed with dwarfism at a young age, and grew up to be only four feet nine inches tall. He faced many challenges and prejudices because of his size, but he also developed a strong will and a passion for martial arts. He graduated from Centre College in 1990, with a degree in English, and then joined the Army.
Despite being rejected by the military several times due to his height, Richard managed to get a waiver and attend the Infantry Officer Candidate School. He graduated as a second lieutenant on August 31, 1967, and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He served as a platoon leader and a recon platoon leader in Vietnam, where he earned the nickname “The Giant Killer” for his bravery and leadership. He participated in the fierce defense of Hue City during the Tet Offensive, where he received a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts.
After his first tour in Vietnam, Richard returned to the US and attended the Special Forces Officer Course at Fort Bragg. He became a Green Beret and was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in Thailand, and later to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens. He also served in Laos and Cambodia, where he trained and led local guerrillas against the communist forces. He left the Army in 1971, with the rank of captain.
A Life of Intrigue and Danger
After leaving the Army, Richard embarked on a life of intrigue and danger, working as a private contractor and a CIA operative in various countries, such as Rhodesia, Angola, Iraq, and Venezuela. He was involved in covert operations, espionage, and counter-terrorism, often using his small stature and his martial arts skills to his advantage. He also helped catch a smuggling ring at Fort Bragg, and worked undercover for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as an informant.
However, Richard’s life was also marked by tragedy and hardship. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and mental health issues. He lost his wife, his home, and his savings. He became homeless and lived on the streets of Miami for 27 years, sleeping under a palm tree outside a Publix supermarket. He was often harassed and assaulted by other homeless people and criminals.
A Life of Mystery and Legacy
Richard’s life was a mystery to many, even to his closest friends and family. He rarely talked about his past, and often changed his name and identity. He had a U.S. passport, which showed that he had traveled to several countries in the recent years, despite being homeless. He also had a storage unit, where he kept a trunk full of medals, documents, tapes, and other items related to his military and intelligence career.
One of the few people who knew Richard’s story was David Yuzuk, a Miami police officer who befriended him in 2000. Yuzuk was fascinated by Richard’s life and decided to make a documentary about him. He interviewed Richard several times and collected evidence and testimonies from other sources. He also helped Richard get a proper burial at the Forest Memorial Park, with full military honors.
Yuzuk’s documentary, titled The Giant Killer, was released in 2017. It tells the story of Richard J. Flaherty, a man who defied the odds and lived a remarkable life. It also raises questions about Richard’s death, which remains unsolved and suspicious. Was it an accident, or was it a murder? Who was behind it, and why? What secrets did Richard take to his grave, and what secrets did he leave behind?
Richard J. Flaherty’s cause of death was a hit-and-run, but his life was much more than that. He was a hero, a spy, a fighter, and a survivor. He was a son, a brother, a husband, and a friend. He was a human being, who had dreams and fears, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses. He was Richard J. Flaherty, and he will be remembered.