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Brooklyn Man Dies After Police Use a Taser Gun
By TRYMAINE LEE and CHRISTINE HAUSER
Published: September 24, 2008
Correction Appended
A naked and apparently emotionally disturbed man fell to his death from a building ledge in Brooklyn on Wednesday after an officer shot him with a Taser stun gun, the police said. The police and witnesses said he had been yelling at passers-by and swinging a long light bulb tube at officers before he fell.
Officials said Iman Morales fell about 10 feet from atop a security gate at 489 Tompkins Avenue near McDonough Street in Brooklyn after being hit by a police Taser on Wednesday.
The man, identified by the police as Iman Morales, 35, was taken to Kings County Hospital Center with serious head trauma after falling about 10 feet to the ground, witnesses said. He was later pronounced dead, officials said.
Mr. Morales’s death on Wednesday afternoon was another episode in the controversial history of Taser use in the city. While Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has looked cautiously on the use of stun gun technology by the Police Department, he recently said he was open to broadening the use of the weapons after a city-commissioned study on police shooting habits urged the department to consider using Tasers more frequently instead of deadly force when applicable.
A video taken by a witness and posted on the Web site of The New York Post shows Mr. Morales naked on the ledge, waving the filament tube over the heads of officers as onlookers screamed, an eerie soundtrack to what soon followed.
“It was a dead man’s fall,” said a witness, Charlene Gordon, the property manager for the four-story brown-brick building at 489 Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Mr. Morales rented a third-floor apartment.
Ms. Gordon said that another tenant in the building told her that she had heard Mr. Morales screaming in his apartment, and then saw him in the hall acting strangely. Ms. Gordon talked to his mother during the standoff, and she told Ms. Gordon that she had not seen her son in a couple of days. She also said he had stopped taking his medication, Ms. Gordon said.
Mr. Morales’s mother went to the building, where she found her son out of control, witnesses said. About 3 p.m., she called 911.
Officers with the Emergency Service Unit who arrived at the building were soon chasing Mr. Morales through his apartment, out a window and onto a fire escape. By then he had ripped a long light bulb from a ceiling fixture and was jabbing it at the pursuing officers, the police said.
He then jumped from the fire escape onto the narrow housing of a rolled-up security gate over the storefront on the ground floor of the building, the police said. Mr. Morales again swung the long tube, hitting an officer on the head, the police said.
“He was naked and he kept screaming,” said Joseph Adrien, who works at a nearby dry cleaners. Another witness said Mr. Morales’s mother was kept off to the side, pleading with the police to let her calm her son’s nerves, but being told repeatedly that it was now a police matter.
For about 30 minutes, Mr. Morales yelled that he did not want anyone touching him, and the police yelled back that they wanted him to come down, witnesses said. Then, an officer approached the man on his perch and fired the Taser at him.
Ms. Gordon said that Mr. Morales had lived in the building for about three years. She described him as quiet and neat. He had previously worked in the financial industry, but had been receiving rent subsidies, she said.
Community activists held a news conference after Mr. Morales’s death, urging neighbors not to prejudge the police and urging the authorities to fully investigate.
City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said in a telephone interview that the situation could have been handled better by the police.
“My first take is that while I’m sure there are no experts out there on how to handle a crazy naked man with a weapon on top of a ledge, I’m also sure this wasn’t the right way, ” Mr. Vallone said on Wednesday evening.
“A situation like that is never going to end in a good way,” Mr. Vallone said after watching the video. “The most important thing is that no innocent bystanders or police got hurt. But clearly, it could have been handled better.”
Mr. Vallone said a public hearing on the department’s use of Tasers might be needed to fine-tune its policy on using them.
The use of Tasers in New York has a troubled history. In the early 1980s, the police were condemned for using them to force drug suspects to confess. Mr. Kelly, then a deputy inspector, was assigned to reform the police practices.
The study on police shootings, which urged the department to consider expanding its use of Tasers, was conducted by the RAND Corporation and commissioned seven weeks after the shooting of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets in Queens on his wedding day in November 2006.
The chief spokesman for the Police Department, Paul J. Browne, said Mr. Morales’s death was under investigation. Department guidelines say an officer may use a Taser if an emotionally disturbed person is a danger to himself or to others. Emergency service units may use it in an emergency without direction, or, as on Wednesday, at the direction of an emergency unit supervisor on the scene, Mr. Browne said.
Currently, emergency service unit officers use the Taser about 300 times a year, mainly when responding to some of the 80,000 calls regarding emotionally disturbed people, officials said.
The handgun-shaped device, which incapacitates a target with a pulsating electrical current and is meant to be an alternative to deadly force, got a higher profile in the department in June when Mr. Kelly announced that Tasers would also be used by sergeants on patrol, who would carry them on their belts instead of keeping them in the trunk of their cars.
Mr. Browne said that officers responding to a situation in which someone is threatening to jump from a building or other high structure will routinely request an inflatable bag to help break the jumper’s fall. But he said that Mr. Morales was only about 10 feet from the sidewalk, and that it was unclear whether a bag had been requested but had not made it to the scene on time, or whether it had not been requested at all. Mr. Browne said the matter would be explored as part of the investigation.
“His mother called 911,” said Sharonnie Perry, a community advocate who lives down the street. “She called for assistance and the assistance she got was her son being killed.”
Karen Zraick contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 26, 2008
An article in some editions on Thursday about a Brooklyn man who fell to his death from a building ledge after a police officer shot him with a Taser stun gun included an erroneous spelling from the police for his given name. He was Iman Morales, not Inman
 

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Police Lieutenant in Taser Case Commits Suicide
By CHRISTINE HAUSER and SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: October 2, 2008
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.
 

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stress. politicians, the media and public opinion on- well, EVERYTHING- dont help one iota. I'm surprised theres not more, actually
 
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