Legendary NYPD Detective Sgt. Joseph Coffey, whose storybook crime-busting career spanned locking up gangsters, interviewing Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz, and dancing with First Lady Nancy Reagan, died Sunday of complications from lung cancer and heart disease.
He was 77.
“He was one of the greatest detectives in the NYPD ever,” said Jerry Schmetterer, a former Daily News police bureau chief and metropolitan editor who wrote “The Coffey Files.”
“He was a larger-than-life guy who always wanted to be involved in the biggest cases,” he said.
Coffey had detractors who thought he was a bit of a media hound, including a notorious Westies gangster who, while testifying in court, referred to the detective as “Publicity Joe.”
With his chiseled good looks and glib patter, Coffey was straight out of central casting as the tough Irish cop.
He grew up in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan and decided to be a cop at age 10, when someone shot at his truck driver and union organizer father for resisting mob pressure muscling in on his union.
Coffey is survived by his wife, Susan; sons Joseph Jr. and Steven; daughter, Kathleen Tonn, and six grandchildren. Coffey's first wife Patricia died in 1993.
A wake will be held Thursday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Ave. from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. The funeral Mass will be Friday at St. Monica’s R.C. Church on E. 79th St.