John Marie Jr., a retired New Orleans police officer who made a name for himself as a beat cop, detective and broadcaster, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.
During 30 years with the New Orleans Police Department, he patrolled the streets of Uptown, Algiers and New Orleans East, as well as serving as a department spokesman and a detective in the child abuse and sex crimes divisions.
Perhaps most significant of his assignments was to the controversial Felony Action Squad in the 1970s and ’80s, whose mandate to rope in the city’s crime problem — often in any way members saw fit, using any means necessary — was questioned by civil rights leaders.
Just nine days after the 1973 Howard Johnson's Motel sniper incident, Marie was ensnared in his first of 12 deadly shootings on duty, firing a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver bullet into a gun-toting robber he literally bumped into while responding to a stick-up in Central City.
The gunman aimed at Marie, told him he was "a dead (expletive)" and pulled the trigger. But his revolver didn't fire because the hammer hadn't been cocked back, Marie recalled in an interview.
That gave Marie the opportunity to fire his service weapon at the gunman, fatally wounding him.
At first, Marie said, he was worried that he had ramped up tensions in a city still on edge after the deadly attack by sniper Mark Essex. But then he realized he had saved the robbery victim's life and his own life and prevented the slain robber from harming anyone else.
"That night after work, we had a celebration of life — mine," Marie said of one of his closest brushes with death on the job.
Born in 1950, Marie almost didn’t make it past his first 16 months. He was in his father’s arms when a hit-and-run driver struck them, critically injuring the toddler. He surprised doctors when he survived the night.
At age 14, he and a friend saved the life of an NOPD motorcycle cop who had been seriously injured by a drunk driver Uptown.
Marie graduated from De La Salle High School in 1967 and joined the NOPD cadet program while he worked toward a criminology degree at Loyola University. He remained with the NOPD until his retirement in 1998.
He was the first officer to do Crimestoppers spots on local TV, taping re-enactments at crime scenes for WVUE-TV. In the 1980s and ’90s he hosted a radio show in which he rode the streets with various area law enforcement offices and broadcast action live as it happened.
Marie couldn't even avoid action on his final day with the NOPD, when — on the way to his retirement party — he chased and exchanged gunfire with another armed robbery suspect.
Marie later signed on as a spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, a position he held for 15 years, even as he reached the end of his battle with cancer.
After he left that post, he was named chief investigator for the Plaquemines Parish Coroner’s Office, a job he held until his death. He also was a reserve lieutenant with the Gretna Police Department.
Outside of work, Marie was an avid runner and regularly finished in the top 500 in the Crescent City Classic. He ran the New York City Marathon six times and was the first finisher from Louisiana in 1995.
He was a former grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and a past president of the Downtown Irish Club. As a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, he conducted free football clinics for underprivileged children.
Though he went to Loyola, Marie was a rabid LSU fan. He attended every LSU football game, home and away, for more than 20 years. He also had season tickets to LSU baseball and regularly followed the team to the College World Series.
Two months ago, he was elated to receive an official LSU football jersey and a phone call from Coach Ed Orgeron. Marie proudly displayed the jersey to folks who visited him at his home in Gretna.
Survivors include a son, John Marie III; a daughter, Melissa Jeanne Marie; and a sister, Mary Jo Godfrey.
A funeral Mass will be said at 2 p.m. Monday at St. Mary’s Assumption Church, 923 Josephine St. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m.
John Marie had previously received treatment for throat and lung cancer diagnoses and was to…