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'Law & Order' Star Dennis Farina Dead at 69

Actor Dennis Farina, who played Detective Joe Fontana on TV's "Law & Order" and also starred in numerous movies, has died at age 69.

Actor Dennis Farina, the Chicago cop turned actor who played Det. Joe Fontana on TV's "Law & Order" and also starred in numerous movies, died Monday at age 69, his publicist tells NBC News. The cause of death was a blood clot in his lung, she said.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great actor and a wonderful man," publicist Lori De Waal said in a statement. "Dennis Farina was always warm-hearted and professional, with a great sense of humor and passion for his profession. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues. We hope that he finds a new life where great roles are plentiful and the Cubs are always winning the pennant."

Farina died in Scottsdale, Ariz., and his girlfriend of 35 years, Marianne Cahill, was with him, his publicist says.

Before becoming an actor, Farina worked as a Chicago police officer for nearly 20 years. He was serving as a police consultant to movie director Michael Mann on the 1981 film "Thief" when Mann gave him a small role, which led to a rich acting career in which he mostly played policemen or mobsters.

In 2004 when Farina joined the uber-successful crime drama "Law & Order," he told TODAY's Katie Couric that he enjoyed the stylish detective he played. "I hope he's never defined, really, to tell you the truth," Farina told Couric. "It's fun finding out myself what he's gonna do next or what characteristics he might have."

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