Officer Cairnes, a relative rookie of two years, arrested the longshoreman on South Street. What happened next on Nov. 10, 1858, became the stuff of legend — an early police killing of an unarmed man running away, with the officer locked up on suspicion of murder.

The case convulsed New York at the time, just as this month’s phone video of a white police officer fatally shooting a fleeing black driver in South Carolina has provoked widespread outrage.