Commack, NY – New York State Police (NYSP) Trooper Joseph “Joe” Gallagher died in the line of duty on March 26 due to injuries he suffered three years earlier after being hit by a distracted driver while he was helping a disabled motorist.
Trooper Gallagher, then 35, was out on patrol at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2017, when he saw a disabled motorist on an overpass between the Sagtikos Parkway and the Long Island Expressway, The Buffalo News reported.
The trooper pulled over and turned on his flashing lights before he exited his vehicle and started placing warning flares out in the roadway around the disabled vehicle, police said.
Although other drivers safely maneuvered around Trooper Gallagher, 23-year-old Jesse Cohen was focused on three separate texting conversations he was engaged in while behind the wheel of his vehicle, WABC reported.
Investigators later said Cohen had multiple social media applications opened and had received dozens of text messages in the minutes leading up to the collision.
Cohen slammed into the trooper and sent him airborne, The Buffalo News reported.
“Joe flew through the air, landing on his head,” Trooper Gallagher’s brother, Martin Gallagher, told the paper.
“He had to undergo a couple different surgeries,” Martin explained. “They had to remove a section of skull to remove the pressure on his brain. He could no longer speak or walk under his own power. He could hear and understand what was said to him, but he couldn’t communicate with us.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault with criminal negligence and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, followed by three years of probation, WABC reported.
He was also ordered to complete 1,000 hours of community service.
Trooper Gallagher, 38, remained under constant care until he passed away at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center on March 26, The Buffalo News reported.
“Trooper Gallagher is a hero to all New Yorkers — he dedicated his life to public service and worked to keep us safe,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement, according to Newsday. “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.”
Trooper Gallagher served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a helicopter pilot prior to embarking on his law enforcement career, The Buffalo News reported.
“He always wanted to be out in the action,” Martin recalled. “On some occasions, he would fly over Buffalo. My father would go out with the binoculars and see if he could spot him.”
After leaving the Coast Guard, Trooper Gallagher spent a couple years working as a design engineer before joining the NYSP in 2014, The Buffalo News reported.
“He loved being a trooper,” Martin said.
Trooper Gallagher leaves behind his wife, Laura, and his children, William and Katherine, according to The Buffalo News.
He is also survived by his parents and siblings.
Trooper Gallagher will be laid to rest on April 7.
It is with great sadness Acting Superintendent Bruen announces the line of duty death of Trooper Joseph Gallagher. Trooper Gallagher passed on March 26, 2021, three years after he was struck by a vehicle on duty.
He is survived by his wife, two children, parents and siblings. pic.twitter.com/M5jvP3uzPs
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) March 27, 2021
— WBNG 12 News (@WBNG12News) March 27, 2021
We are deeply saddened by the passing of NYS Trooper Joseph Gallagher who died on 3/26/21 as a result of injuries from being struck by a distracted driver. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and colleagues. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DYTBvuCj9q
— Suffolk County Sheriff's Office (@Suffolk_Sheriff) March 28, 2021
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of New York State Police Trooper Joseph “Joe” Gallagher, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.