NYPD: Taser Death, Suicide, Racial Indifference

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Why didn't the police allow Mr. Morales' mother to speak to him? If they had couldn't these two deaths have been avoided? What was the urgency that led Lt. Pigott to give the Taser order before the airbag arrived?

[Speaking Truth To Power]


On May 1, 1992, during the infamous Los Angeles Riots, Rodney King asked a still unanswered question relevant to issues of police brutality and racism in America: "can't we all get along?"


That question should be seriously pondered by all Americans. Here in New York, the recent dual tragedies brought on by the latest NYPD outrage are an example of why.


Last Thursday, Lt. Michael Pigott, of the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit (ESU) committed suicide. Pigott, a 21-year NYPD veteran of Sayville Long Island, was the officer who gave the fatal order to Taser 35-year-old Iman Morales in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn last September 24. Mr. Morales, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was shot with a 5,000 volt charge before plummeted three stories to his death.


Ironically, this latest heartbreaking episode started when Mr. Morales's mother called 911 due to her son's suicidal threats, which some say, may have been caused by medication he was taking. When police arrived; a naked Morales fled out his apartment's third-floor window, to the fire escape, then sought refuge atop a storefront perch, where he keep officers at bay with a light-bulb.


Reports say, his mother's request to speak with her son was denied. Someone radioed for an airbag in the event that Mr. Morales fell, inexplicably the decision was made to Taser him before the airbag arrived. Consequently, Mr. Morales fell headfirst to his death. Lt Pigott who was said to have been worried about the specter of being charged with a crime and faced with his guilt in this unnecessary death committed suicide. On his 46 birthday he shot himself in the head, leaving behind a wife and three kids.

These interconnecting deaths are illustrative of the corrosive nature of an Americastill segregated by race. Pigott, we are told by media reports was a "good guy." But how often do we hear that after the unjustified killings of innocent Blacks or Latinos? Weren't we told that about Lt. Gary Napoli? Remember him? He was the cop cowering in the NYPD undercover van while officers in his unit were busy firing 50 shots in the car and body of Sean Bell.


I covered the Sean Bell Case writing several stories about that awful outrage. Bellwas killed on Nov. 25, 2006. That day would've been his wedding day, and that injustice haunts me. I sometimes wonder: what will happen to his two daughters, Jada and Jordyn? Will they be able to tell their sons what happened to their grandfather and the society which thought nothing about the taking of his devalued life? How will they tell them the media was complicit in insinuating that he caused his own death, because he was supposedly once a drug dealer?


As a Black man, I am acutely aware that one day my blood could be spilled and my memory reduced to a lifeless outline in white chalk. In fact, less than 24 hours after Sean Bell's life was taken, yours truly was followed twice for no other reason but Driving While Black. Unfortunately, American society tars and feathers Blacks, by making us appear more criminally inclined.


Now, I don't know what kind of person Lt Pigott was. At the very least, he seems to have been remorseful for his actions. However, Lt Pigott is an example of why cops who live in sheltered, predominately white communities shouldn't be allowed to police disenfranchised minority neighborhoods, they either don't understand, or, whose inhabitants they despise. 


For, Lt. Pigott lived in a tranquil, spacious neighborhood that is the polar opposite of the one he policed, rife with problems rooted in economic desolation and political neglect. Truthfully, most whites have no profound understanding of minorities, including the cultural and economic heritage African-Americans have bestowed upon America. All most see is the distorted picture media manipulators paint: one showing minorities, especially Blacks as being lazy, welfare recipients, thugs or criminals.


These prejudiced perceptions are harmful enough, considering that at some point there will be interaction between the races in a shared country. But that reality becomes more deadly when blind prejudice or racial ignorance is given a badge and a gun filled with bullets.  In the Sean Bell Case, many proclaimed race wasn't a factor because some of the officers involved were Black. But I asked then, and now: why did Officer Michael Oliver empty his first clip, and reload firing 31 of the fifty shots? Wasn't he indeed firing at the racial bogeyman in his head?


Now, the relevant questions here are these. Why didn't the police allow Mr. Morales' mother to speak to him? If they had couldn't these two deaths have been avoided? What was the urgency that led Lt. Pigott to give the Taser order before the airbag arrived? Why is it that the police handled the life of Mr. Morales with less care that we see when animals are being rescued?  We have been told, by "mainstream media," humanizing stories about the life of Lt. Pigott's family and Sayville community.


But didn't Mr. Morales' family and community love his just as much as Lt. Pigott's? Was his life any less precious?


These dual tragedies weren't inevitable. They were totally preventable. However, these tragedies will continue until white Americachallenges the views of the larger segregated social order, regarding the humanity of their darker skin brothers. Until then, we just won't as a nation "all get along."




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