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Former Pittsburgh police deputy chief found dead

Bob Bauder
| Monday, April 6, 2015, 3:38 p.m.
Retired Pittsburgh police chief Earl Woodyard was found dead at his home in Baldwin Borough, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office.
James Knox | TRib total media file
Retired Pittsburgh police chief Earl Woodyard was found dead at his home in Baldwin Borough, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office.

Retired Pittsburgh police official Earl Woodyard Jr. was a man of few words, but people listened when he spoke, former colleagues said Monday.

Woodyard, 68, was found dead at his home in Baldwin Borough, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office. An autopsy is scheduled, and the cause of death has not been determined, a supervisor said.

Allegheny County police are investigating, but did not return a call.

Woodyard worked his way through police ranks during a 30-year career, serving as patrolman, detective, deputy chief and assistant chief before retiring in 2006.

Known as “Woody” among colleagues, Woodyard served at least one stint as acting chief in 2006. Former colleagues said he enjoyed hunting and often gave his friends venison.

“He was an incredible gentleman,” former Mayor Tom Murphy said. “Whether you liked it or not, he was going to tell you what his perspective was, and I respected him for that.”

Former Police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. said Woodyard served under him as assistant police chief. He said he crossed paths with Woodyard when both served as detectives, McNeilly in the South Side and Woodyard in the North Side.

They connected because both served in the Marine Corps.

McNeilly said Woodyard was known as a disciplinarian, who was not afraid to confront officers who made mistakes.

“It's always sad when you hear somebody passing away like that,” McNeilly said. “I always respected him because he was a Marine, and he served in Vietnam. He was one of the few people in the department who was a Marine who served in Vietnam. The really bad years in Vietnam were '67 to '69, and I know he was over there during that time.”

Mike LaPorte, a sergeant in the police department's Canine Unit and the former president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said he worked under Woodyard when Woodyard was commander of the Zone 5 station in Highland Park.

He said Woodyard did not mince words when speaking to officers.

“Having come up through the ranks, he was a very stern, but understanding, boss,” LaPorte said. “He was a no-nonsense guy. He wanted the facts. He was just a get-to-the-point type of guy.”

Police Chief Cameron McLay said in a statement that Woodyard would not be forgotten.

“He had a long and fruitful career as a public servant with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police,” McLay said. “He was neighborhood-focused and was known for being strict but fair.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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