This is part of my ongoing series Officer Down – in honour of police officers slain in the line of duty.
On Friday, March 26, 2021, New York State Trooper Joseph Gallagher died as a result of traumatic brain injuries suffered on December 18, 2017.
On that fateful day, Trooper Gallagher stopped to assist a motorist whose vehicle broke down on an entrance ramp from the Long Island Expressway to the Sagtikos Parkway.
Despite warning flares set up by Trooper Gallagher to warn approaching traffic, Jesse Cohen was far more interested in his text messages and social media feeds than paying attention to the road.
Jesse Cohen’s vehicle slammed into Trooper Gallagher at full speed.
“The evidence that Jesse Cohen was distracted by text message conversations was overwhelming and today he admitted to causing the devastating crash which resulted in serious injury to Trooper Gallagher,” said District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr.
Trooper Joseph Gallagher suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of being struck by Cohen’s vehicle, and remained in full-time care from the time of the accident until his death. He could not walk, talk or eat on his own, and had many operations, including those to remove pressure on his brain.
A rescue helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard before he joined the State Police, Joseph Gallagher clearly had a passion for serving others. It breaks my heart that another officer dedicated to helping others was so needlessly taken from his wife, his children and family.
Reverend Martin Gallagher, parochial vicar at the Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church, said his brother always wanted to be where the action was.
While serving as a Coast Guard pilot, “on some occasions, he would fly over Buffalo. My father would go out with the binoculars and see if he could spot him. He loved being a trooper,” said Reverend Gallagher.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in Gallagher’s memory.
“Trooper Gallagher is a hero to all New Yorkers,” Cuomo saod, “He dedicated his life to public service and worked to keep us safe. His tragic passing is a reminder of the selfless actions, so many brave first responders take each day. We will never forget him, and to honor his memory, I am directing flags be flown at half-staff to honor his memory.”
On average, 50 police officers are killed every year in traffic-related incidents since 2010. Thankfully this number is dropping since the ten years following the turn of the century, when an average of 71 police officers lost their lives to traffic accidents.
“This crash and the serious injuries that left Trooper Gallagher severely disabled were 100 percent preventable,” said New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett in a statement.
“Using an electronic device behind the wheel is dangerous for the driver, other motorists and our first responders who are working to protect the driving public. Put down your device. It’s the law and it could save a life.”
Jesse Cohen pleaded guilty to third-degree assault with criminal negligence, a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 30 days time served, three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.
At Cohen’s sentencing hearing, Laura Gallagher told the court the heartbreaking story of how her 3- and 6-year-old girls keep asking, “Is daddy going to get better and come home?”
Trooper Joseph Gallagher is survived by his wife Laura, two daughters, his brothers and sisters and his parents.