The suicide of an NYPD inspector added a new and heartbreaking dimension to a burgeoning police scandal that appears to focus on two Orthodox Jewish businessmen linked to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Insp. Michael Ameri, the commanding officer of the Highway Division, shot himself in the head in his unmarked police car Friday near a golf course on Long Island, reportedly after he was questioned by the FBI.
The feds were reportedly reviewing the escort logs of the unit, which Ameri had headed since 2014. Police sources say the logs include the escorts of relatives of deceased Hasidics to the nightly El Al Israel Airlines flight to Israel after the bodies are cleared by the medical examiner so they can be quickly buried, as Jewish law prescribes.
As far as we know, no criminal charges were pending against Ameri, who had also headed the 78th Precinct in Park Slope. Nor had he been transferred or placed on modified duty, as were nine chiefs and inspectors following allegations that senior officers were giving Orthodox community members special treatment.
Roy Richter, the head of the captains union, for which Ameri was a board member, said he spoke with Ameri on Thursday to assure him that the decision of a lieutenant under him to suddenly retire did not reflect on him.
So, why would Ameri kill himself? “Here’s a guy who was respected by his colleagues,” a former top police official said anonymously to speak frankly about the case, “who knew the mayor and escorted the pope when he visited the city last fall. But in his own eyes, he had failed the department.”
We’ve been down this road before. In 2008, Lt. Michael Pigott committed suicide after he ordered an officer to use a Taser on an emotionally disturbed man who later died. Amid the corruption scandal of the 30th Precinct in the 1990s, Capt. Terrence Tunnock killed himself after he informed Internal Affairs that a corrupt cop had lied to him. He was not involved in the scandal, but the NYPD’s code of silence apparently weighed heavily on him.
Perhaps Commissioner Bill Bratton or someone above him should have a discussion with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara before another officer takes his life. Unfortunately, that won’t be de Blasio, because his 2013 mayoral campaign is also under investigation.