Is Octavio Pisano’s Joe Velasco Leaving SVU?

Portrayed by Octavio Pisano, Jose ‘Joe’ Velasco is an important character in ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.’ He is a detective attached to the Manhattan SVU. Introduced in the season 23 premiere episode as a replacement in the team for Katriona Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder), Velasco has quickly become an integral member. He grew up in an abusive household, and that left a deep impact on him. He was a delinquent in his youth, but after watching his gang beat a man to a pulp, he decided to change his life. Velasco joined the NYPD and worked undercover before becoming part of the SVU. If the recent events have made you wonder whether Pisano is leaving the show, here is what we think. SPOILERS AHEAD.

What Happened to Joe Velasco?

In ‘SVU’ season 24 episode 12, the SVU struggles to build a case against Oscar Papa, the head of the Dominican gang BX9. Velasco asks his captain, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), whether he should go and speak to Hector “Sacrilege” Suarez, a member of the BX9 currently incarcerated in Rikers for raping Monica Diaz. Benson agrees to the idea and sends plainclothes officer Tonie Churlish with him. However, Churlish leaves the room after Velasco offers cocaine to Sacrilege to exact confession from the gang member. Churlish is highly ambitious and wants to become a commissioner one day, so she tries to keep her record clean. In comparison, Velasco doesn’t seem to have any such ambition and is willing to bend the law for what he surely considers to be the greater good.

The next time Velasco and Churlish visit Sacrilege, the White Shield lets the SVU detective know that she will not cover for him if he gets caught. In response, Velasco tells Churlish that he hasn’t asked her to. Unbeknownst to him, Churlish secretly turns on the recorder on her phone as they go in. Although she later leaves the room after Velasco asks her to, the recording stays on. Toward the end of the episode, Churlish gives Benson a USB device containing the recording she made.

In episode 13, Benson gives the USB device to SVU detective Grace Muncy and asks her opinion. When she is alone in her car, Muncy listens to the video and is stunned to hear Velasco speaking to Sacrilege about murdering someone in the past. She later tells Benson that Velasco was most likely lying to convince Sacrilege to testify against Papa. However, Benson has her doubts and decides to investigate the matter herself. She warns Muncy against speaking about this to anyone, including Velasco.

In episode 15, Fin takes the responsibility of interrogating Velasco, and Churlish is also there with him. After much prodding, Velasco reluctantly reveals that he was recruited for the cartel when he was a teenager and was told to kill two people. He ultimately couldn’t do it, but his friend did. Velasco fled the city after that, and his friend became a cartel member. This incident played a crucial role in Velasco’s decision to become a police officer. Tests reveal that Velasco is telling the truth about giving Sacriliege powdered sugar, which he himself used as well. Toward the end of the episode, Benson warns him that someday he will have to arrest that friend of his.

Is Octavio Pisano Leaving Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?

After episodes 12 and 13, many fans of ‘SVU’ took to social media to express their concerns about Pisano’s potential departure from the show. Of all Dick Wolf series, ‘SVU’ arguably has the most active fanbase, leading the producers to announce any significant changes in the cast well before it happens, as we saw with the departure of Kelli Giddish, who portrays Amanda Rollins, earlier this season. If Pisano were to really leave the show, the announcement probably would have come sooner.

The team has already gotten two new members in season 24 — Muncy and Terry Bruno — with the latter effectively becoming a replacement for Rollins. It is unlikely for producers to write off another character this season. Episode 15 effectively demonstrates that Velasco isn’t going anywhere. Benson decides to keep him in the squad despite the secrets he kept from her.

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