Former NYPD Lawyer Lawrence Byrne, Long Island Native Whose Brother Was Killed by Drug Dealers, Dies at 61

lawrence byrne
Lawrence Byrne (NYPD)

Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD’s former deputy commissioner for legal matters, died on Sunday at age 61. The Long Island native had suffered a heart attack a few days earlier and died at a Manhattan hospital.

Byrne’s brother, Edward, a rookie NYPD officer, was killed while on duty in 1988, and Byrne spent his life honoring his memory and shaping police policy.

“We send our condolences to his family and share in their grief,” Sgt. Edward Riley, an NYPD spokesperson, said in a statement. “The Byrne family is one with a tradition of service to the NYPD, and one that has already borne the burden of the line of duty death of Larry’s brother.” 

Edward was killed by drug dealers at age 22. The murder made national headlines; President Ronald Reagan called to offer the family his condolences, and George H.W. Bush carried Edward’s badge during his 1988 campaign for president.

Byrne testified to ensure that the four Queens men convicted in his brother’s murder remained in prison when they were up for parole. Each year on Feb. 26, the day of his brother’s death, he attended a vigil at the site of Edward’s murder in Jamaica, Queens.

“Commissioner Byrne was a good friend and a fierce fighter, especially when it came to his hero brother’s memory,” the New York City Police Benevolent Association wrote in a statement. “He worked tirelessly to ensure that his brother’s killers – and all cop-killers – never escaped justice. We will carry on that fight in his name.”

Byrne was the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal matters from 2014 to 2018, when he retired and returned to a private law practice. In those four years, he led a team of about 100 lawyers in the police department’s legal bureau and defended the NYPD on some of the most controversial cases in that time.

Visitations for Lawrence Byrne are scheduled for Thursday at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Bethpage. A funeral mass is scheduled for Thursday at St. James Church in Seaford.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.