Dave Toschi

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Dave Toschi
Toschi in 1976
David Ramon Toschi

(1931-07-11)July 11, 1931
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 2018(2018-01-06) (aged 86)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
EducationGalileo High School[1]
OccupationInspector (1952–1989)
Known forThe Zodiac Killer case
Carol Bacigalupi
(m. 1957)

David Ramon Toschi (/ˈtɒski/; July 11, 1931 – January 6, 2018) was an American law enforcement officer widely known for his efforts in the San Francisco Police Department as an inspector in the Zodiac Killer case. His personal style was the model for Bullitt and Dirty Harry.


Toschi was born to the Italian-American family of school janitor Sam and Millie Toschi in San Francisco[2] and was an alumnus of Galileo High School. Immediately upon graduation, he joined the US Army, and became a member of the 24th Infantry Division, holding the Pusan Perimeter during the Korean War, honorably discharged in 1952.[3]

Returning to San Francisco, Toschi joined the San Francisco Police Department, where he served from 1952 to 1987. He was assigned to its homicide detail from 1966 to 1978.[4] He is best known for his role as a chief investigator in the Zodiac Killer case, which he and his partner, Inspector Bill Armstrong, began to work on after the murder of taxi driver Paul Stine.[5] He was also assigned to the Zebra murders team, and in 1985 received a meritorious conduct award for curtailing the career of a rapist/burglar. Toschi was well-known for his style of dress, including bow-ties, 'loud' plaid suits, bounteous curls, and exaggerated trench-coat at a time when investigating officers strove to look subdued "like G-men".[6] In 1976, his quest for attention led him to send anonymous letters admiring his own efforts to Armistead Maupin, then a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle; the revelation of that led to him being removed from the case in 1978 and being reassigned to the robbery detail.[7][6] Toschi was also accused but later exonerated of writing one of the Zodiac letters, which the USPS crime lab verified as authentic but was later impeached by other experts; these suspicions ended Toschi's chance of eventually replacing SFPD chief Charles Gain.[8]

Shortly after he left the SFPD, Toschi became Director of Security for St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco's Mission District,[9] and later served the same role for San Francisco's Pan Pacific Hotel. Toschi was vice president of North Star Security Services in Daly City.[10] He was a technical advisor to the producers of the 2007 film Zodiac.

Toschi married Carol Bacigalupi in 1957. They had three daughters, Susan, Karen, and Linda. During production of Zodiac, his family refused to be presented or referred to in the film.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Harry Callahan, the title character of the 1971 film Dirty Harry portrayed by Clint Eastwood, was said to have been modeled on Toschi,[12][6] while the film's villain—based on the Zodiac Killer—was called "The Scorpio Killer".[13] Steve McQueen specifically copied Toschi's distinctive style of quick-draw shoulder-holster (wearing his gun upside down) for the 1968 movie Bullitt. McQueen also claimed that he modeled much of his Bullitt character on Toschi.[14] San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Duffy Jennings, however, wrote that while the film characters drew their swagger and style from Toschi's personal character, his professional style "was by the book, efficient and thorough."

Actor Mark Ruffalo portrayed Toschi in the 2007 David Fincher film Zodiac.

George Lucas included a subtle tribute in the 1977 film Star Wars, having Luke Skywalker “going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters”.[15]


  1. ^ Fagan, Kevin (January 10, 2018). "SF cop who hunted Zodiac killer dies. Dave Toschi was 86". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 11, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  2. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/01/11/dave-toschi-the-zodiac-killings-investigator-who-inspired-dirty-harry-dead-at-86/
  3. ^ "David Toschi". San Francisco Chronicle. January 14, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2019 – via Legacy.com.
  4. ^ Jennings, Duffy (October 8, 2009). "40 years of Zodiac – The cold case that haunts Dave Toschi". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  5. ^ "Inspector Dave Toschi on Zodiac Letter to Melvin Belli - Bay Area Television Archive".
  6. ^ a b c Genzlinger, Neil (January 12, 2018). "David Toschi, 86, Detective Who Pursued the Zodiac Killer, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  7. ^ KRON-TV (July 11, 1978). "Armistead Maupin on Inspector Dave Toschi & Zodiac Case". Bay Area Television Archive. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  8. ^ Kanaan, Greg (March 1, 2017). "When The Movies Get It Right: Probable Cause and David Fincher's Zodiac". The [Legal] Artist. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  9. ^ "Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed". July 26, 0418.
  10. ^ King, Daniel (October 5, 2005). "Chasing Zodiac: He murdered dozens of people and wrote weird notes to The Chronicle. Many years on, a movie is in the works". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Mark Ruffalo Interviewed - 'Zodiac'". Collider. February 27, 2007.
  12. ^ Fagan, Kevin (January 10, 2018). "SF cop who hunted Zodiac killer dies. Dave Toschi was 86". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  13. ^ "This is the cop who inspired 'Dirty Harry' and 'Bullitt'". July 10, 2021.
  14. ^ Graysmith, Robert (1986). Zodiac. St. Martin's Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-312-89895-9.
  15. ^ "Zodiac Killer Hunting Detective Dies at 86". January 11, 2018.

External links[edit]