When you watch a long-running police procedural like “Blue Bloods,” you end up learning that death is always around the corner. These deaths can come from anywhere, whether it’s a minor cameo, a single-episode guest star, a recurring character, or even a series regular. Nothing is off the table when a show is centered around the dedicated lawmen working the streets of one of the world’s biggest cities and confronting its most dangerous criminals.
For “Blue Bloods,” though, these deaths can often be truly tragic, as the series isn’t just focused on a group of any old detectives and beat cops, but a tight-knit family. Led by Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck), the family has members littered throughout the law enforcement community, both in the NYPD and in the city’s courthouse. Between the victims of violent crime that they encounter in their cases and the sudden and unexpected deaths of those close to the family — and sometimes within it — things get downright tragic. These are the saddest deaths in the history of “Blue Bloods,” ranked.
12. Detective Sonny Malevsky
Listen, he’s last on this list for a reason. As the man who is discovered to have killed Joseph Reagan, it’s hard to call the death of Sonny Malevsky (Michael T. Weiss) all that sad, because we all know he had it coming. Yet there’s something heartbreaking about the way it goes down — not because we wish he’d lived, but because he doesn’t deserve to go out on his own terms.
Revealed as Joe’s killer in the heartbreaking Season 1 finale “The Blue Templar,” Sonny is perhaps the most devilishly evil baddie the show ever features. To make matters worse, he’s one of their own: a New York City police detective. Part of a secret order of corrupt cops, he kills Joe to stop him from exposing the truth about him and his other Blue Templars. So when he’s found out and discovered by Frank Reagan (Selleck), he knows they won’t go easy on him, and he could be facing a lifetime in prison — the last place a cop ever wants to be.
Rather than risk being taken alive, Malevsky takes his own life, robbing the Reagans of justice for Joseph. That emotional gut punch, as Malevsky gets off “easy” for the murder of their son and brother, is exactly what makes it a tragedy, even if he doesn’t deserve to live.
11. Officer Vinny Cruz
“Blue Bloods” may mostly be about family and the Reagans’ fight to keep New York safe. Still, some of the best characters on the show are those who surround them, including the partners who follow Danny and Jamie Reagan into the streets, catching perps and investigating the most grisly murders. Vinny Cruz (Sebastian Sozzi) is one of these dedicated sidekicks, and his death in Season 3’s “The Bitter End” is the most tear-inducing moment of that season.
Opening with a soul-crushing scene, “The Bitter End” sees Jamie and Vinny arriving at the Bitterman Housing Projects, a notorious complex brimming with criminal activity and beset by ruthless gang violence. Shaken after witnessing a mother’s suicide and the death of a child, the pair are still dealing with trauma when they find themselves chasing down a purse snatcher who flees back into the housing projects. After losing him on foot, they realize they’ve been set up, and are ambushed in broad daylight.
Shot in the neck, Cruz dies in his partner’s arms while smiling, reassuring Jamie that his death was pre-ordained. It’s a shocking and emotional scene that doubles down on the episode’s tragedy. After his death, he’s posthumously promoted to detective first grade, with Commissioner Frank Reagan and the rest of the force left reeling.
10. Linda Reagan
We don’t get to see the death of Linda Reagan (Amy Carlson) on-screen, so, like Sonny Malevsky, the sad nature of her demise is more about its aftermath and what it means to the surviving characters. After all, Linda is a member of the Reagan family, even if she isn’t one of the series regulars out on the streets protecting the city from its worst criminals. But she’s married to one who is: Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg). Her death may hit him harder than any other death in the series, even his brother Joe’s.
In the wake of her accidental death in a helicopter crash, Danny is shaken with grief and his home life is left in ruins. He becomes a single father overnight and struggles to keep it together, even considering leaving the force altogether. Things get even more intense when it’s discovered that Linda’s death may not have been an accident at all, and was likely orchestrated by a drug cartel led by Jose Rojas (Danny Trejo).
The saddest part of Linda’s demise may be that we don’t get to see it. Feeling the weight of her loss through others is utterly gut-wrenching.
9. Corporal John Russell
Some of the most unnerving deaths on “Blue Bloods” don’t involve series regulars or even longtime recurring characters. Often, they’re the death of a guest star — someone whose gripping story pulls us in and makes us feel the true desperation of their situation. Such is the case in the Season 4 installment “Unfinished Business,” in which Danny is struck by the story of John Russell (Chad Michael Collins), an accused domestic abuser and kidnapping suspect he comes to believe may not be the diabolical villain he’s been painted out to be. Russell is a military veteran, like Danny himself, and may be suffering from PTSD.
Danny decides to pull double duty, hoping to stop a kidnapper and get him help at the same time. But the effort isn’t as easy as he’d like it to be, and though he’s able to rescue the child from his father’s misguided grasp and return him to his mother’s custody, Russell’s internal battle is far more complicated. Unable to reach his fellow former serviceman, Danny can only watch as the troubled man he’s trying to save takes his own life.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.
8. Anna Zoltin
Though she only gets a few short lines in her brief appearance, there’s something unforgettably sad about the death of Anna (Gwynneth Bensen) in Season 1’s “Little Fish.” The installment mostly revolves around Frank Reagan’s regret regarding a cold case he failed to solve decades before, but the episode’s B-story kicks off with Danny Reagan receiving a phone call from Anna, a sex worker he helped out of a jam in a previous unseen incident.
Picking up the phone in the wee hours of the early morning, Anna tearfully pleads for Danny’s help, though she doesn’t say exactly what trouble she’s found herself in. Not happy about the abrupt morning call, Danny brushes her off, telling her to instead call 911. Anna says that she’d been told nobody — not even the police — can help her. But before Danny can find out more, Anna’s body washes up along the Hudson River.
The death is a tough one for Danny to take, made all the worse by the fact that Anna is strangled to death by Johnny Vega (Donnie Keshawarz), a sex trafficker under the protection of the FBI. Apparently, he’s working with the agency to help take down a major crime family, but when it’s revealed that a powerful judge has been protecting him, all bets are off.
7. Officer Michelle Martin
Like Anna in “Little Fish,” Officer Michelle Martin (Maggie Steele) only gets one scene in Season 1’s “Officer Down.” But when audiences first meet her, she’s bright, cheery, and just going about her daily beat, casually talking on her cell phone. When she comes across a disturbance, Officer Martin realizes she’s stumbled upon a robbery in progress, and rushes in to stop the thieves who’ve taken hostages inside a diamond exchange. Face to face with an armed gunman, Martin finds herself on the wrong end of the barrel of a crook’s gun, and is shot in cold blood. She dies alone on the side of the street.
As the gunman rushes off with a huge haul of jewels in the back of the getaway truck, the camera cuts to Martin’s lifeless body on the pavement. It’s revealed that she’s pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. But Martin’s death is more than just an officer dying in the line of duty, which would be sad enough on its own. The scene is crushing because of what we hear just prior. In that moment, Officer Martin talks on the phone with her husband and is just about to celebrate their wedding anniversary. We also discover that the married couple has a six-year-old son at home, who will now have to live without his mother.
6. Chief Donald Kent
Another guest star who loses their life on “Blue Bloods,” Donald Kent is no ordinary one-off. He’s a high-ranking NYPD officer played by actor Dennis Haysbert, best known for his role as President David Palmer on “24.” He appears in the Season 5 episode “New Rules,” where he’s promoted to New York’s Assistant Chief beside Frank Reagan. His time in the role is cut short, however, when he’s killed in what appears to be a well-planned hit from a local gang. It comes near the end of the season, when Kent is introduced as a major thorn in the side of New York’s worst criminals.
Brought in by Frank personally to be given a promotion for his good work, we learn he’s just celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary. He even suggests creating a special medal for the NYPD’s most loyal wives. The promotion is a particularly moving one, with Frank noting that it makes him the equal of Kent’s own father, who once held the same rank. Speechless, Kent proudly accepts his two-star rank, and salutes Chief Reagan. Just a few scenes later, his body is uncovered at a local park, where both he and his wife have been gunned down.
A mostly silent moment with little dialogue, the score does the talking as NYPD’s finest grieve for the newly promoted chief — just as the audience does.
5. Emily Copeland
Season 7’s “Love Lost” opens with a beautiful young woman named Emily Copeland (Stephanie Patent) lying soundly in her bed, apparently asleep. But we quickly realize she is not in a peaceful slumber — she has suffered a strangulation death in her home, and there are no signs of a break-in despite an open window. Suspicion immediately shifts to Emily’s husband Brian (Adam Wade McLaughlin), who claims he’d come home to find her dead and called it in himself. The fact that he recently took out a life insurance policy makes him look even more guilty.
Eschewing the standard “wrongfully accused” story of many police procedurals, Brian soon confesses that he killed his own wife, but that’s not quite the end of this sad story. The real shocker is the revelation that Emily was recently diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and didn’t want to live out her remaining days in pain and hardship. Instead, she asked her husband to help her end her own life, and no matter how much he didn’t want to go through with it, he felt duty-bound to do as his wife asked.
This death isn’t just sad because of the loss of a promising young woman’s life — it’s downright tragic because her well-intentioned, loving husband finds himself facing a life sentence for murder.
4. Michael Potter
The Reagans have had to deal with their share of enemies on “Blue Bloods,” from drug cartels and criminal kingpins to horrifying serial killers and child kidnappers. But one of their most persistent rivals has been Reverend Darnell Potter (Ato Essandoh), a vocal critic of the NYPD and of Frank Reagan specifically. Feeling that the law enforcement leader could do a better job and that he may even be corrupt, Potter has made life hard for the Reagan family more than once. In Season 7’s “Unbearable Loss,” though, he finds himself looking to Frank for help after an unspeakable death.
It begins when the body of Potter’s son Michael (Leon Outlaw Jr.) is discovered by Danny Reagan. In a heart-rending moment, Darnell and his wife arrive at the scene, and the tears stream immediately. Any parent watching can instantly feel the chest-clutching pain they are experiencing, as they realize their son is dead. With Michael lying in the street in a pool of blood, his parents watch in agony as evidence is tagged by police — the same police they have so long criticized for not stopping the kind of violent crime that has now taken their very own child.
In the wake of his death, Reverend Potter is forced to put aside his differences with the Reagans to find justice. Fighting through the grief, he works with the city’s top cop to find Potter’s killer. It becomes an even sadder death when it’s discovered the culprit is one of the reverend’s former students.
3. Joe Reagan
It may seem odd to pick a death that happens before the series starts as one of the saddest in “Blue Bloods” history, but this is no ordinary loss. The death of Joseph Reagan is the catalyst for the series to begin, and when we pick up the action in the premiere episode, it hasn’t been all that long since the tragic event occurred. Joseph’s death casts a pall over the entire first season — and to some extent the entirety of the show’s run — as the family struggles to deal with the demise of a fellow NYPD officer, a son, a brother, and — as we later learn — a father.
Early on, the entire Reagan clan grieves the loss, and is motivated to find his killer and do justice to his memory. In Season 10, we meet a woman who claims to be the mother of Joseph’s child, who has been named after his father. This is a double revelation: There’s another member of the family — little Joe Reagan is the spitting image of their lost kin — and, as it turns out, a young officer followed in his father’s footsteps. Despite only ever seeing a photograph of Joseph Reagan in the series’ pilot, the audience knows his death is one of the saddest the family has ever had to deal with.
2. Sarah Peterson
The only thing preventing our next entry from topping our list is that there’s another death more closely related to a main cast member . Otherwise, the loss of Sarah Peterson in Season 9’s “Two-Faced” would take the highest spot, due to its jaw-dropping sorrow. The episode centers around the death of a young woman named Sarah, who seems to have been the victim of her own father, Dr. David Peterson (Armand Schultz), who was apparently using her as a guinea pig for his radical, risky, and experimental new medicine.
While the loss of a young woman at the hands of her own father would be heart-aching enough, the story’s next destination compounds the misery. Dr. Peterson is responsible for her death, but he wasn’t misguided at all: He was attempting to cure her of a debilitating disease with methods no other doctor would dare attempt. Despite all his insistence that he had no other choice — his daughter was going to die in agony anyway — he now faces the prospect of a prison sentence for murder. To top it all off, the good doctor and grieving father isn’t looking to fight the system; at one point he seems to accept that he may actually have to see time behind bars.
1. Javier Baez
The death of a guest star can often be just as powerful and tear-inducing as that of an ongoing character, as we’ve already seen with the likes of Chief Kent and Cpl. John Russell. But when it comes to the saddest death in “Blue Bloods,” it’s more than just any random guest star: Javier Baez (Kirk Acevedo) is the brother of Danny Reagan’s partner and series star Maria Baez (Marisa Ramirez). He’s seen once before in Season 4’s “Bad Blood,” where he’s introduced as Maria’s estranged brother and a suspect in a recent homicide. When he returns in “Partners,” though, he’s at the end of his rope and looking to turn his life around.
To do it, Javier agrees to go undercover for a dangerous operation for the DEA, which brings him into conflict with Danny and his sister Maria. This is because they learn, through their own digging, that Javier is connected to the cartel the DEA is working on taking down, and may be double-crossing the feds. But when Maria is put in harm’s way during the confrontation between the two sides, Javier is faced with a terrifying choice. He ultimately takes a bullet for his sister. In the end, Javier dies with Maria bawling above him, desperately clutching his hand in vain and likely wondering if there was any way she could have done things differently.