Man sentenced for road rage killing of off-duty firefighter Faizal Coto

Faizal Coto
The late Faizal Coto was honored by hundreds of fellow firefighters, his family, and officials, during his funeral procession in 2018.
File photo by Trey Pentecost

A man faces 25 years to life in prison for killing off-duty firefighter Faizal Coto in a fit of road rage on the Belt Parkway in 2018. 

“This defendant’s vicious response to a minor fender bender robbed a close family of a loved one and a firefighter community of a brave and treasured brother,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. 

According to prosecutors, the 33-year-old suspect Joseph Desmond was traveling on the roadway near Dyker Heights, when his car collided with the victim’s vehicle in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2018. 

Both Desmond and the victim, 33-year-old Coto, who was an off-duty FDNY member with Engine 245 in Coney Island, pulled over their cars near Exit 4 near Bay Eighth Street. 

Within 15 seconds of exiting his vehicle, Desmond approached Coto and hit him in the head with a blunt object, before returning to his car and driving off, prosecutors said.

EMS workers rushed to the scene, where they found the bloodied victim lying on the ground, and took him to Coney Island Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead a short while later, according to the investigation. 

Authorities arrested Desmond one day after the incident after cameras recorded the Staten Island resident hiding out in a motel in New Jersey. Both cameras on the Belt Parkway and location data from his cellphone placed him at the scene of the grizzly crime, prosecutors said. 

“Our hearts continue to be with Mr. Coto’s relatives, friends and coworkers as they grieve this unspeakable loss, and I hope today’s sentence helps bring some sense of solace knowing that this defendant has been held accountable,” Gonzalez said in a statement. 

Throughout the year in 2018, the Five Boroughs saw a significantly lowered murder rate, as just 3.31 per 100,000 people were killed in the Big Apple that year — representing the lowest rate in the preceding 50 years.

In late 2019, the corner of West Eigth Street and Surf Avenue, just outside Engine 245, was co-named “Firefighter Faizal Coto Way.”

At Coto’s wake in Sunset Park, he was remembered for being “everybody’s best friend.”

“He would find the goodness in everyone,” one friend said.