Michael Pigott, accused of Iman Moreales death, commits suicide
A New York City police lieutenant who gave the order to fire a Taser stun gun at an emotionally disturbed man who then fell to his death in Brooklyn committed suicide early on Thursday, law enforcement officials said.
Lt. Michael W. Pigott, a 21-year veteran of the force, was found in a police locker room at a former airfield in Brooklyn, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Paul Browne, the police department’s deputy commissioner for public information.
“On behalf of all of the members of the New York City Police Department, I extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lt. Michael W. Pigott who served with dedication for 21 years,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement.
Lieutenant Pigott had been placed on modified assignment without his gun and badge after he gave the order to a sergeant to fire the Taser at a Bedford-Stuyvesant man, Iman Morales, on Sept. 24.
Mr. Morales, naked and with apparent signs of emotional disturbance, tumbled to his death from a second-story building ledge after an officer shot him with the Taser at the instruction of Lieutenant Pigott. Mr. Morales, 35, had been yelling at passers-by and swinging a long fluorescent light bulb at officers before he fell.
In the aftermath of Mr. Morales’s death, the department announced that the use of the Taser appeared to have violated departmental rules, and a new commander of the Emergency Service Unit was named. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly also ordered refresher training for the unit on how to deal with the mentally ill.
Lieutenant Pigott killed himself on the morning of the burial of Mr. Morales. Funeral services were being held Thursday at Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Carmine Street in Manhattan.
“The family has been in shock and grief and mourning,” said Ronald L. Kuby, the lawyer for Mr. Morales’s family. “Iman’s mother Olga witnessed the killing of her son. No explanation is possible.”
On Wednesday, as the Morales family was holding a wake for the victim, Pigott apologized for what happened, saying he was “truly sorry,” the Associated Press reported.
Mr. Browne said that Lieutenant Pigott went to Emergency Services headquarters at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn alone early Thursday morning. He entered a locker room, where he gained access to a weapon that was not his: a 9-millimeter Glock. His body was discovered in the locker room by a service member who was coming on duty at about 6 a.m.
Mr. Morales, who lived at 489 Tompkins Avenue, was said by neighbors to be a quiet, polite tenant who paid his rent on time and kept his one-bedroom apartment clean. He was on public assistance, and was receiving medication for mental illness, the property manager, Charlene Gayle-Gordon, said in an interview.
In the days before his death, however, Mr. Morales became increasingly distraught. Neighbors said they heard him pacing in his apartment and shouting, though he was apparently alone.
Witnesses said Mr. Morales was extremely agitated as he climbed out the window of his third floor apartment to the fire escape just before 2 p.m. on the day of his death, police said.
“He was saying, ‘This neighborhood is gone to the dogs, it was fine before,’ ” said his upstairs neighbor, Eric Johnson, 27. “He said: ‘Why is everybody infatuated with superstars? Jay-Z is Beyonce.’ His information wasn’t making sense.”
After unsuccessfully trying to enter the apartment of a fourth-floor neighbor, he climbed down to the second-floor fire escape, and from there onto the top of a roll-down security gate, which was just over 10 feet above the sidewalk, police said.
As an Emergency Services officer climbed onto the fire escape, Mr. Morales jabbed at him with the eight-foot-long light bulb. Shortly afterward, Lieutenant Pigott gave the order to Officer Nicholas Marchesona to fire the Taser. Mr. Morales plunged head-first to the sidewalk. He was brought to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
While officers had radioed for an inflatable bag as the incident unfolded, it had not yet arrived at the scene when Mr. Morales fell. None of the officers on the scene were positioned to break his fall, nor did they devise a plan in advance to do so, the police said in a statement released the day after the incident.
Lieutenant Pigott’s order to employ the Taser appeared to have violated department guidelines, which state that “when possible, the [Taser] should not be used . . . in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface,” the statement said.Following the death of Mr. Morales, Lieutenant Pigott had been placed on desk duty with Fleet Services, which handles the Police Department’s vehicles. Officer Marchesona was also placed on desk duty. Thursday was Lieutenant Pigott’s 46th birthday, the Associated Press reported.