Widow shares anguish of N.Y. officer who committed suicide after TASER incident
By Selim Algar
New York Post
NEW YORK — The decision that started it all - commanding his officers to Taser a naked and deranged man who then fell to his death from a metal awning cover in Brooklyn- took Lt. Michael Pigott only a split second.
But ending his own life - layering tragedy upon tragedy by shooting himself in the head on his 46th birthday - was a decision the lieutenant made over the course of eight anguished days.
In her first one-on-one interview, Pigott's widow yesterday recounted her husband's eight days of toggling between fury and despondency, between indecision and an ultimately irreversible decisiveness.
Through it all, Susan Pigott tearfully told The Post, she could only suspect the drowning depths of his heartsickness.
"I kept trying to reassure him," Susan said. "I told him we would get through this. I told him all we needed was each other and our family."
On Sept. 24, 2008, Lt. Pigott, a decorated Emergency Service Unit officer, ordered one of his officers to Taser 35-year-old Iman Morales, who was waving an 8-foot-long florescent light tube at the crowds below.
Morales ended up plummeting to his death. It then took 20 hours of questioning before Michael made it home, Susan remembered. Already, her husband was transformed.
"The first words out of his mouth were, 'They took my gun and badge,' " Susan remembered.
"For him to say that, for those to be the first words out of his mouth, showed me how deeply it impacted him. He was no longer a police officer."
Then followed the recriminations, public and private. Pigott was told he'd never be a cop again, Susan said. No less than the police commissioner announced that Pigott had mishandled the situation.
"I remember at dinner one night, my daughter turned to him and asked when he was going to jail," Susan said. Elizabeth was 10. The couple were also raising Michael, now 14, and Robert, 16.
"Elizabeth said the kids at school told her he was going to jail. He just said, 'I hope not. I hope not.' "
Reassigned to desk duty away from the officers he loved - "My men," he called them - Pigott tried to carry on.
"For the kids' sake, he tried his best to just do the everyday tasks," Susan said. "He covered the pool with his son, and did some yard work. But you could just tell he was hurting."
Despondency and anger came in waves. "I need to fight back!" he'd insist at times. "I need to fight for my life."
Then he'd fall silent. "He felt like he was going to lose it all. This was just something so deep inside him. Something that we couldn't reach.
"It was someone we didn't know."
In his final phone call, his voice was so soft, it was as if he was already leaving her.
"He was speaking really low," Susan remembered. He kept mentioning his decision to order the use of the Taser, and how he was protecting his men.
At that point, Pigott may have already inked the suicide note that was found at his side at his Brooklyn ESU facility: "I love you all. I'm sorry for the mess!!"
His final words to her?
"He told me he wouldn't be home for a while."
The next morning, Oct. 2, she woke at 4:30 to find his side of the bed empty.
His car was gone. She began calling relatives.
When she finally got the word, by phone, from her mother, "My daughter was next to me," Susan said.
"And she could tell something was wrong. I told her, 'Daddy passed away.' She just started crying and calling out for him over and over.
As for the boys, "They screamed. And then one of them started crying. And the other one just went quiet."
Susan, 47, has sued the city, accusing officials of indirectly causing her husband's death by publicly scapegoating him. The city has declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Susan tries to stay strong. "I can't fall apart for the sake of the kids. If they see me crying, they all start crying.
"Now," she said, turning away and tearing up, "I try to do my crying alone."
Copyright 2009 New York Post