Nov. 3, 1942 – May 18, 2015
When Daniel R. DiPirro applied for a job as a Buffalo police officer in 1968, he was a young married man with plans to start a family, looking for steady work.
But he fell in love with police work, and wound up handling many of the biggest murder cases in Buffalo in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. DiPirro, who retired in 1995 after 27 years on the job, died Monday in Buffalo General Medical Center following a short illness. He was 72.
“He originally went into police work because it was steady work, but he loved all aspects of the job – especially the cases and the people he worked with,” said his wife, Mary. “His work meant so much to him, and he was proud of it.”
A no-nonsense detective assigned to the homicide unit for the last 12 years of his career, he was especially proud of his work on the 1987 murders of two East Side priests, and of his investigations into dozens of slayings involving vicious drug gangs in the city. He spent years investigating Donald “Sly” Green, a murderous drug dealer and gang leader who was sentenced to four terms of life in federal prison in 1994.
Msgr. David P. Herlihy and Rev. Joseph Bissonette, two priests known for their kindness to the poor, were both murdered during robberies at their church rectories during the early part of 1987. Two teenagers were arrested and sent to prison for the crimes.
The priest cases especially bothered Mr. DiPirro because he was a devout Catholic and had great respect for priests, his wife said.
Although her husband spent many years investigating the city’s most dangerous drug gangs – including Green’s infamous “LA Boys” – he rarely talked about those cases to his family.
“He didn’t want to upset us,” his wife said.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. DiPirro was a graduate of Kensington High School. He worked on patrol duty in the city for several years before he was made a detective and assigned to the Narcotics Squad. He later moved up to the Homicide Squad.
“Dan was a great cop and even a better man,” recalled Buffalo attorney Dennis C. Vacco, who worked with Mr. DiPirro on the priest murders while a prosecutor in the Erie County District Attorney’s office.
Mr. DiPirro was shot at several times during his career, and he won a number of departmental awards and citations. After retiring from the police department, he worked security for several years for the Buffalo Bills. He belonged to the Italian-American Police Association, the National Rifle Association, the Gold Shield Club and the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.
He loved traveling, especially to Italy, and enjoyed good meals, collecting guns, cheering for the Bills and spending time with his two grandchildren.
He and the former Mary Zagarino celebrated their 50th anniversary last July.
Mr. DiPirro is also survived by a daughter, Maria DiPirro-Olivo, and a son, Daniel Jr.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 450 Abbott Road.
– Dan Herbeck