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What's Happened to Octavio Pisano's Joe Velasco on Law & Order: SVU?

The detective spent a while proving himself to Olivia Benson (and the rest of the squad) after a rough start.

By Megan Carpentier

One of the newer additions to the squad on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is Detective Joe Velasco (Octavio Pisano), who has shown his dedication to helping victims and bringing the worst criminals to justice.

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But Velasco joined the squad under a cloud as a hire from a disliked superior, and had to work hard to build his relationships with his coworkers. He'd finally gotten accepted when he resorted to some unusual — and unauthorized — interrogation tactics to try to convince a witness to testify in an important case, and ended up being the subject of one of the squad's investigations.

In the wake of his mistakes and some shocking revelations about his past, Velasco's had to put in even more work to earn the trust of his colleagues and keep making cases against some of New York's worst offenders.

Law And Order SVU Detective Joe Velasco

When did Detective Joe Velasco join SVU?

Velasco's first appearance on SVU was in Season 23, Episode 1 ("And the Empire Strikes Back"), where he surprised Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice T) and Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) at the scene of an arrest.

He was undercover, reporting to then-Deputy Chief Tommy McGrath (Terry Serpico) in the case of a Congressman, Justin Howard (Ben Rappaport), who was being investigated for sex trafficking. Velasco's identity was as a social media influencer named Danny "Q" Quinones who was equally interested in underage girls.

It turned out that McGrath had told Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) that he was sending his own guy undercover but sworn her to secrecy — and his efforts didn't exactly endear either Velasco or McGrath to the squad.

McGrath appointed him to replace the departing Detective Kat Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder) in Episode 3 ("One More Tale of Two Victims"), with Fin warning Benson about a potential spy in their ranks.

Law And Order SVU's Detective Joe Velasco on the stand

What's happened between Joe Velasco and Olivia Benson on SVU?

Though Velasco and Benson currently have a good relationship, it didn't start out that way.

Benson was not pleased with how Velasco came to the squad on McGrath's heels, though they'd mended fences by Season 24.

But it was in Season 24 that she began an investigation into whether he'd committed a murder.

In Episode 12 ("Blood Out"), Velasco and investigator Tonie Churlish (Jasmine Batchelor) were hoping to convince a gang member, Hector, to testify against his leader when Velasco pretended to offer the guy cocaine and confessed to committing a murder. Churlish illegally recorded the conversation and turned it over to Olivia — who proceeded to quietly open an investigation in Episode 13 ("Intersection").

In Episode 15 ("King of the Moon"), she started conducting a background check and looped in Fin — and discovered that the murder Velasco had described was a real cold case in Fort Worth, Texas.

RELATED: Inside Bradley Whitford's Guest Appearance in the Latest Law & Order: SVU

After an interrogation by Fin with an assist by Churlish, Velasco submitted to drug tests, and said that he didn't commit the murder but was in the room when it happened. He described having been recruited near his home and sent to Fort Worth to learn how to be a security guard, but then discovered that he'd been sent to a training camp for gang hitmen. But, he said, when he and his friend were dispatched to the targets' home, he wasn't able to pull the trigger and ran away. His friend, instead, committed the murder and covered for him.

Fin believed him — but Benson told him he'd have to make it up to her, and sent him to find the friend.

In Episode 19 ("Bend The Law"), he succeeded, with Benson's help: Anthony “Chilly” Suarez (Joseph Castillo-Midyett) had left the cartel and become an elementary school teacher in Maine.

RELATED: Where Do Velasco and Benson Stand After the Latest Nail-Biting SVU Episode?

Chilly ultimately confessed to having committed more than one murder before escaping the cartel, and Velasco got it on tape, albeit not legally. He turned the tape over to Benson, who tossed it in her desk.

In an interview with NBC Insider, Pisano explained Benson's thinking.

"There's something that happened at the end of this episode where Velasco asks, 'What's going to happen to the [Chilly evidence]?' And she's like, 'Well, you did your thing.' Almost unspoken-ly saying, 'The whole purpose of you going there was to prove your loyalty to me,'" he said.

“I think by the end of last season, Velasco committed fully to the squad and that solidified their relationship," he told Us Weekly before Season 25. "It’s only growing."

Benson Tells Velasco They're Good | Law & Order: SVU | NBC

What happened to Joe Velasco before he joined SVU?

Velasco has told members of the squad that he grew up just over the border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In Season 23, Episode 2 ("Never Turn Your Back on Them"), he said father was an abusive alcoholic who used to beat him with a belt — which is the only memento he kept from his childhood after his father died. 

RELATED: All About Law & Order: SVU Detective Joe Velasco, Played by Octavio Pisano

In Episode 8 ("Nightmare in Drill City"), he admitted that he'd wanted to join the local gang at age 14 when the leader, Hector, asked him for a favor. The favor, it turned out, was to help lure a pedophile to a location for the gang to torture for the location of his stash. After that, he told his mom he was in trouble and they fled to Nebraska and then Washington Heights.

He revealed in Episode 17 ("Once Upon A Time In El Barrio") that his birth name was Jose and he'd escaped the clutches of the gang in Mexico with the help of his local priest.