John Keenan, the retired New York City Police chief of detectives from Rockville Centre who led the investigation of Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz in 1977, died Thursday. He was 99.
Keenan was remembered as a hero for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the NYPD after that. The devoted family man was three months shy of his 100th birthday at the time of his passing.
“My grandfather was an accomplished, brilliant man,” said his 34-year-old grandson, Kevin Brennan, an NYC school administrator also from Rockville Centre. “He was exceedingly humble, honest and kind. He was the finest man I’ll ever know and we all miss him dearly.”
Before serving 37 years in the NYPD, Keenan was a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II, participated in the D-Day Invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of Paris. He finished his service in the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant.
“The NYPD mourns the passing of retired Chief of @NYPDDetectives John Keenan, who took the confession of ‘.44-cal killer’ David Berkowitz,” Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill tweeted.
Keenan was appointed to the NYPD on June 9, 1941 and retired on July 25, 1978. After the NYPD, he served as vice president for operations of the New York Racing Association.
“Truly saddened to learn that former Chief of Detectives John Keenan has passed,” tweeted Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea. “A life of epic heroism … We salute you, sir.”
Keenan and his 97-year-old wife Sara were married 73 years. He was a father of three: Joan Keenan Brennan (Kevin), the late Mary Ellen Keenan Carey (James), and the late Sara Keenan. He is also survived by five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“He was really kind of the center of our family,” Brennan said. “He really provided for me and my siblings and my cousins an example of how a man should treat his wife, his children, and his grandchildren, and other people in general.”
Reposing is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Macken Mortuary, Rockville Centre, Chapel 52, Clinton Avenue. His funeral mass is set for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre followed by interment at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.