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Michael J. McCarthy Jr., heroic cop who served in Buffalo and overseas
May 8, 1939 -- Jan. 21, 2011

Michael J. McCarthy Jr., a heroic cop who survived many dangerous adventures with the Buffalo Police and in war-torn hot spots in the Middle East, died Friday. He was 71.

The retired police lieutenant died in the Orchard Park home of a family member, where he was under hospice care after a long fight with cancer.

Lt. McCarthy, who reminded fellow officers of actor Clint Eastwood, worked with the Buffalo Police for more than 30 years, retiring in late 1994. He then worked a couple of years in private security before beginning a 12-year career as a private security consultant and investigator, working for the United Nations and others in Iraq, Bosnia, Liberia and other countries.

He was widely respected by fellow cops, and 25 of his family members -- including his three sons and his daughter -- followed him into law enforcement.

"Ever since I became a rookie officer, I've had people come up to me and say, 'Your dad was the best cop I ever worked with,' " said one of his sons, Michael J. McCarthy, now a captain in the Buffalo Police. "He set a high standard for the rest of us in the family to try to live up to."

"If I was a citizen in trouble on a street corner in Buffalo, Mike was exactly the cop you'd like to see coming around the corner to your rescue," said Jim Watson, a longtime reporter with the Buffalo Courier-Express.

Lt. McCarthy met with a reporter from The Buffalo News last month and spoke about his adventures. "

As a police officer, I always wanted people on the street to give me one of two things -- respect or fear," he said in a story published last Dec. 19. "I didn't care which one it was."

The son of a city police lieutenant, Lt. McCarthy grew up in the Commodore Perry housing project in Buffalo's Old First Ward and graduated from Father Baker High School.

A Marine Corps veteran, he worked as a longshoreman for several years before joining the Buffalo Police in 1963. Over the next three decades, he won 85 service commendations and almost every heroism award given to Buffalo Police.

One of the awards came in 1968, after he shot and killed a robbery suspect who had killed a fellow officer -- and shot Lt. McCarthy's police hat off his head -- during a confrontation on Military Road.

Lt. McCarthy spent much of his career as one of the commanders of the city police Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

After retirement, he took his first overseas assignment in 1998, when he was hired by the State Department to investigate war crimes and atrocities in Bosnia.

During his time in Iraq, Lt. McCarthy was once shot in the leg, and was shot at dozens of times. He survived two terrorist bombings at the Iraqi hotel where he was staying, including one explosion that blew him out of his room and sent him careening into steel elevator doors.

Lt. McCarthy was a member of Matthew Glab American Legion Post 1477 in Lackawanna and American Legion Post 123 in Angeles City, the Philippines.

Besides his son, Michael, he is survived by a daughter, Erin McCarthy-Harrington; and two more sons, Greg and Sean; three sisters, Margaret Nigrelli, Anne Lauber and Kathleen O'Keefe; and his ex-wife, Kathleen Higgins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, 767 Ridge Road, Lackawanna.

-- Dan Herbeck

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