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Police Academy Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

In a world dominated by a seemingly endless slew of IP-driven films, it's hard to believe that a silly film about bumbling would-be police officers would be among the biggest hits of the 1980s. But, such was the case with 1984's "Police Academy." Due to a shortage of police officers, anyone desiring to join the force is automatically granted a place in the academy. Thus, the flood gates are open for a motley crew of lovable losers to enlist. Hijinks ensue as the trainees must prove that they have what it takes to be police officers. 

Made on a modest budget of $4.5 million, the first "Police Academy" film would go on to earn $81.2 million (via The Numbers). It's even more impressive when you consider this was director Hugh Wilson's directorial debut. The film eventually spawned six sequels and two spinoff series. Seeing how decades have passed since the release of the original film, it's not a surprise that a few key cast members have died.

Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith played the imposing Hightower in the "Police Academy" films. Smith was intimidating, but he brought an endearing and childlike persona to the role. This made him a favorite character within the series. In fact, Smith had played the role in five more films in the franchise, and would even act in the spinoff series "Police Academy: The Series." Before acting, the 6-foot-7-inch Smith was best remembered as an NFL defensive lineman. Even in his college days, it seemed that Smith was destined to play pro football. In college, he played at Michigan State University and became a two-time All-American in 1965 and 1966. This obviously gained a lot of attention, and Smith was the Baltimore Colts' No. 1 pick in the 1967 NFL-AFL draft. Smith ended up playing in two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one of them (via Sportscasting). 

Like many other pro athletes, Smith parlayed his fame into acting going as far back as a guest spot playing himself in a 1973 episode of "The Odd Couple" (via IMDb). Other notable appearances include: "Charlie's Angels," "Taxi," and "Good Times." After "Police Academy," Smith made cameos in cult favorites such as "Gremlins 2" and "Married with Children."

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Smith was found dead in his Los Angeles home on August 4, 2011, at age 66. At the time, the cause of death was not determined. USA Today reported that Smith had Stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease thought to be caused by repeated head trauma and concussions.

David Graf

David Graf had an impressive resume that includes over 100 film and television credits (via IMDb). However, he is best remembered for his role in "Police Academy" as the lovable but deeply unhinged Tackleberry. Like the rest of the trainees, Tackleberry, a war veteran, had a series of quirks, including being trigger-happy — arguably, this seems incredibly cringe-worthy by today's standards. Yet, he was endearing thanks to Graf's charisma. He was beloved enough to be brought back for all seven "Police Academy" films. Like Bubba Smith, Graf even showed up in the television spinoff "Police Academy: The Series" which saw him make a cameo appearance as Tackleberry. It would end up being the last time Graf played the character. 

Post-"Police Academy," the actor found steady work in notable television series, including "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Aaahh!! Real Monsters," and "Touched by an Angel." On the big screen, Graf appeared in fan-favorite films such as "The Brady Bunch Movie" and "Rules of Engagement."

The Washington Post reported that Graf died on April 7, 2001, of a heart attack. He was 50 years old.

Art Metrano

Actor Art Metrano took over the villainous role as the scheming Ernie Mauser in "Police Academy 2" and "Police Academy 3." Considered one of the cast's veterans, Metrano had quite an interesting career path leading up to the "Police Academy" films. Incredibly, it was performing magic tricks as "The Amazing Metrano" for "The Tonight Show" that helped launch his professional career. 

In New York, he studied with the famous acting coach Stella Adler and John Cassavetes. This led to roles such as "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and television appearances such as a 16-episode run on "Joanie Loves Chachi" as well as "Bewitched" and "The Mod Squad." Tragically, in 1989 Metrano, fell off a ladder while working on the roof of his Los Angeles home, fracturing his second and seventh vertebrae. 

He would not only recover, but he also turned his harrowing experience into a one-man show (via The Hollywood Reporter). The actor worked steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, he made a cameo appearance as Sheriff Meiser — a renamed version of Mauser — in "Police Academy: The Series."

Metrano died of natural causes on September 8, 2021, at his Florida home at the age of 84.