NYPD officers used excessive force when they decided to zap an emotionally disturbed man with a taser as he stood naked on a ledge ten feet above a Bedford-Stuyvesant sidewalk, a judge ruled yesterday. Iman Morales fell head first to his death after being tased, as you may recall, and the NYPD Lieutenant who gave the order to use the taser, Michael Pigott, subsequently committed suicide. It's a horrible, tragic story all around, but there may be some restitution in sight for Morales's bereaved relatives.
Morales's mother called 911 on that fateful day in September 2008 because Morales was "out of control" and believed to be off his meds. When police arrived at the apartment, Morales stripped naked and crawled out onto a second floor fire escape, attempting to enter a neighbor's apartment. Finding the window locked, he remained out on the fire escape and then moved to a ledge over an awning, where he swung a long florescent light bulb.
Acting on an order from Lt. Pigott, Officer Nicholas Marchesona zapped Morales with a 50,000 volt taser, even though NYPD guidelines advise against using a taser on anyone standing on an elevated surface. Marchesona later testified that "(Pigott) thought that maybe (Morales) would have collapsed. I mean coming straight down, possibly, maybe, breaking a leg, but nothing probably worse than that." Instead, he fell on his head and died.
Yesterday Chief Magistrate Steven Gold refused to throw out the family's lawsuit against the city, ruling that Morales was not an imminent threat to police or bystanders. "The police might have waited for the arrival of the airbag or merely aimed the Taser at Morales ready to fire if the situation escalated," Gold wrote in his decision, which was obtained by the Daily News.