You Don't Want Sam Marullo Knocking On Your Door

“If I was laying there dead on some Baltimore street corner, I'd want it to be you standing over me, catching the case.” – Fictional Baltimore PD Sgt. praising Jimmy McNulty of “The Wire”

“If I were ever murdered I would want Sammy investigating my murder because he would exhaust everything possible to bring the asshole or assholes to justice.”   –True LAPD Homicide Detective praising Sam Marullo of Criminal Gang Homicide Division.

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It would be nice if nobody in town ever needed the professional services of Sam Marullo, but if they did – and, sadly, some will – they will be comforted in their darkest hours by a man fiercely determined to find whoever caused their anguish.

Marullo formally joined the ranks of LAPD homicide detectives last week in a ceremony at the Police Administration Building when one his mentors, detective Sal LaBarbera, pinned him with a detective’s shield.

When Sal LaBarbera first told me that “Sammy is being promoted to detective today”, I was kinda stunned. I said, almost incredulously, “Sammy Marullo? I thought he already was a detective.  

Turns out he was a “detective trainee” for South Bureau Homicide for six, seven years. No one on the streets took him for a “trainee”. Marullo even joked at the ceremony that no one knew he was “an imposter”.

“I’m honored by the position and hope I can live up to the expectations of the greats who have taught me and who worked a much more violent and stressful time. A special thanks to my detectives mentors Sal LaBarbera, John Skaggs, Rick Gordon, Chris Barling, John Zambos, Danny Myers, and Jeff Notle. And to my district attorney mentor , and now judge Joseph Porras.”

LaBarbera saw Marullo’s potential many years ago.

“I know early on that he was the perfect candidate to work homicide, but it took a while to convince him ” said LaBarbera. “He enjoyed the fast pace of field work. We finally convinced him that he could transition his expertise into becoming an outstanding homicide detective.”

One supervisor said Marullo so loved working the streets that he had to be “sat down and guided into doing something different."

“Sammy was doing 90 miles and hour in a 25 zone, “ said Southeast Sgt. Val Valenti, watch assistant watch commander at Southeast who was the OIC (officer in charge) of the gang unit when he supervised Marullo. “He was real stubborn and he loved working the streets. He’s a real hard worker.”

A guy who saw him going that 90 mph, maybe even a 100, was Det. Mike Levant who arrived at Southeast in April, 2000.

“Sammy and his partner, Ben Perez were known for being two hard working officers who always got into great capers usually involving gang members and guns,” said Levant. “I worked with Sammy a few times and there were always high expectations. Every time we went out, we came back with a good arrest.”

Once he did start working homicide, Marullo partnered up with veteran who gave no slack.

“I'm very hard on my partners as I don’t think most cops should work homicide or have the ability to work it properly,” said John Skaggs, current homicide coordinator of LAPD’s West Bureau, who was Marullo’s first partner in Southeast. “But, Sammy adjusted very well as officers with south end gang experience are usually the best to step into homicide. During his first year in homicide we cleared every case we were assigned.”

Skaggs and others praised Marullo because “cares about having open cases, cares about getting killers of the streets, cares about victims and their families.”

“To be successful in homicide you can "never drop the ball", Skaggs said. “When your phone rings you answer it. When the soonest a witness can meet is on your day off, you give up your day off. Sammy understands this.”

LaBarbera said, “Sammy is the kind of cop who was both feared and respected by gang members. He is one of the guys who is going to continue the tradition.”

 Det. Sam Marullo, in uniform, with Det. Sal LaBarbera

Det. Sam Marullo, in uniform, with Det. Sal LaBarbera