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Ronald F. Coyle, retired Buffalo police detective noted for his stories Jan. 26, 1936 -- Oct. 18, 2008

Detective Sgt. Ronald F. Coyle was one of those cops who looked like a character from an old Humphrey Bogart movie.

He smoked a big cigar, spoke in a voice that was as rough as gravel and could go on for hours, telling one outrageous story after another about his experiences on the street.

Some of the former officers who worked with him in the Buffalo Police Department consider him the funniest person they ever met.

Sgt. Coyle, a lifelong Buffalo resident, died Saturday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a long illness. He was 72.

"He was probably the funniest person I've ever known, and he also happened to be an excellent cop," said James Jackson, a former deputy police commissioner who was a close friend of Coyle's for 40 years.

Following his father and grandfather into the Buffalo police force, he served in the department from 1963 until 1990. He later worked as an investigator for the Erie County district attorney's office and did security work for Buffalo Place, Buffalo Raceway and the National Football League.

Raised in the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood, Sgt. Coyle graduated from Seneca Vocational High School in 1954. He served for two years in the Army before becoming a police officer.

He worked in the elite Tactical Patrol Unit and later became a detective, assigned to the downtown and North Buffalo precincts. He also worked as a narcotics investigator and assisted the Drug Enforcement Administration on many major cases in the 1970s and 1980s.

But for all his law enforcement accomplishments, Sgt. Coyle probably will be best remembered for his talents as a storyteller, Jackson and others noted.

Sgt. Coyle shared some of his tales with The Buffalo News in an interview for a March 1990 retirement story:

Answering a call, Sgt. Coyle found out that a man had gone to a McDonald's restaurant asking for a job and then hurled a big cinder block through the front window when he wasn't immediately hired.

The man had given the restaurant manager his name and address in hopes of getting hired.

"We went to the guy's house and arrested him."

The sergeant participated in a narcotics raid at a rooming house on Linwood Avenue.

"It was very confusing in there, and we ended up raiding the wrong room," he recalled. "But we found 60 pounds of marijuana in there. Then we hit the right room and found three marijuana cigarettes."

"There was this pop company at Genesee and Jefferson, and they had a break-in one night. [My] partner and I went around to the back. We're driving down this little cobblestone alley with our lights off, when, bam, the burglar jumps out a third-story window and lands on the hood of our car. His legs and knees were banged up pretty good, so we arrested him."

Sgt. Coyle was well-known for running benefit parties for officers or family members of officers who had been through tragedies.

In addition to his wife of 33 years, the former Rosann Arena, he is survived by two sons, Peter and Shannon, and two daughters, Kelly Uzar and Kimberly Adam.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in St. Margaret Catholic Church, 1395 Hertel Ave.

-- Dan Herbeck

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