Dave Toschi, Cop Who Inspired ‘Bullitt’ and Portrayed in ‘Zodiac,’ Dies at 86
Fans of cop movies should take note of the passing of an important figure, both in the history of film and San Francisco police work. Dave Toschi, a officer who worked for the SFPD for decades and became famous for his bold fashion choices, has died. The San Francisco Chronicle says he passed away at the age of 86 after “a lengthy illness.”
The Chronicle has a photograph of the real Toschi; above is Toschi as portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in David Fincher’s Zodiac, the 2007 movie about the unsolved case of the Zodiac Killer, who murdered several people in the Bay Area and sent taunting letters about his killings to the news media. Toschi was assigned the Zodiac case; Fincher’s film follows him as he pursues various leads and, eventually, partners with an obsessive Chronicle cartoonist named Robert Graysmith (played in the film by Jake Gyllenhaal). As portrayed by Ruffalo, Toschi is a smart cop with a memorable wardrobe, particularly his love of bow ties.
But Toschi’s influence on movies extends beyond Zodiac. He was also an important inspiration for the title character in Bullitt, the 1968 cop movie starring Steve McQueen. McQueen even adopted another of component of Toschi’s style as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt: The character’s famous shoulder holster. As one of the lead investigators on the Zodiac case, Toschi also influenced Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of Harry Callahan in the original Dirty Harry. (Eastwood plays a cop on the trail of the extremely Zodiac-esque Scorpio Killer.)
Toschi never found the Zodiac Killer, and he was taken off the case after he was caught sending letters praising himself under fake names to a San Francisco Chronicle writer. But he served the city of San Francisco for many years, and won an award for “meritorious conduct” in 1985. After that, his impact on the world of movies is a bonus. Gianrico Pierucci, another police officer who worked the Zodiac case after Toschi told the Chronicle of his predecessor “He was a good cop. He said he was always happy to get up and do his job.”