NYPD Inspector Michael Ameri was found dead in his parked car on Friday. Ameri was the commanding officer of the Highway Patrol Unit and was suspected of providing unauthorized escorts for members of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Ameri, 44, had served as the commanding officer of the Highway Patrol Unit and was the former commanding officer of the 78th Precinct in Park Slope, WCBS reported. He is remembered as having been “a friend to many Park Slopers,” as Park Slope Neighbors – a grassroots neighborhood advocacy group – tweeted. However, the officer was also being investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) as well as the FBI, the New York Post reported.
Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and the men and women of the 78 and Highway Division. He was a friend to many Park Slopers.
— Park Slope Neighbors (@psneighbors) May 13, 2016
On Thursday, IAB cops began raiding files related to escorts.
“They went to his stationhouse to get the escort logs. After that, someone called him,” an unnamed source told The Post.
The anonymous law enforcement officer said that the IAB officers took two years of files in their raid. Ameri had allegedly spoken with the FBI.
“He was very distraught about the visit. He felt his career was in jeopardy and he couldn’t deal with the stress and the not knowing when everything was going to come to a head,” a different source told The Post.
Ameri’s stress reportedly began bubbling up earlier this year. When the probe was opened, he began distancing himself from important figures in the Orthodox community, such as Jona Rechnitz, Jeremy Reichberg and Alex ‘Shaya’ Lichtenstein. Investigators were looking into accusations that he approved of police providing escorts for funerals and other events in exchange for gifts and money.
Lichtenstein is an interesting figure in this case. He is a member of the Shomrim patrol – a volunteer security force in Orthodox parts of Brooklyn. He served with the Borough Park Shomrim patrol and, in mid-April, was charged with offering bribes to NYPD officers to obtain gun permits.
He was recorded offering an officer $6,000 and claimed to have received 150 permits in the past year due to connections at the License Division. These allegations have resulted in what the New York Times called “a top-to-bottom review of the License Division.”
Ameri seemed to behave nervously following Lichtenstein’s arrest.
“Right before the Jewish holidays, Ameri told people close to him that he was very worried about the probe and he cut ties with people who the feds were looking at, namely ‘Shaya’ Lichtenstein. He actually told a high-ranking officer in the highway division to stay away from Shaya, cut off all communication,” a source told The Post.
Things only became more stressful for Ameri after Lichtenstein’s arrest. Lauren Davis was riding her bike when she was hit and killed by a driver in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The initial NYPD reports claimed that she had been riding against traffic despite a witness on the scene telling Gothamist, “I am absolutely sure she was not biking against traffic.”
“I was very aware of her,” she said.
Just days later, however, a department representative for the Highway Patrol Unit confirmed that she was not, in fact, riding against traffic. This left many, including Streetsblog NYC, asking “What will NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Highway Patrol chief Michael Ameri, who’s in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad, do to prevent this from happening again?”
Despite the allegations, the impact of Ameri’s death has been felt by the community. He left one teenage son behind.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had worked with Ameri on his Vision Zero program to reduce deaths.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Inspector Michael Ameri. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time,” de Blasio said in a statement.