TMZ reports that Santos suffered a heart attack Wednesday at his Los Angeles home, according to his son, Perry Santos. He was put on life support at a hospital in Santa Monica, where he passed away.
The actor played Becker, a frustrated Los Angeles policeman, on the NBC show for eight years, appearing in 112 episodes. Santos received an Emmy nomination for his work in 1979 for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.
Santos built a career around playing in police-themed shows including “Magnum P.I.” and “Police Story.” Taking a break from being the good policeman everyone loved in “The Rockford Files,” he played a bad guy on “The Sopranos.”
Santos’ big screen appearances included roles in the 1971 film “Panic in Needle Park,” where he starred opposite Al Pacino, and the 1968 Frank Sinatra film “The Detective.” Other film appearances include “Blue Thunder” (1983) and “The Last Boy Scout” (1991).
Before becoming an actor, Santos played football at Fordham University. It was not until he attended an acting class with a friend that he would find his life’s purpose.