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Police Ambushed, Negotiated with a Dead Man

March 22, 1996

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ By 4 p.m. Richard Sacchi had laid out his burial suit and asked God in writing for forgiveness. He had shot and killed a policeman, his grandmother and his dog. He had traumatized his neighborhood with volleys of gunfire and blasts of heavy metal music.

Then, with the music still playing, he shot himself in the stomach with one of his many hunting rifles.

But the police outside did not know this; for another 14 hours, they surrounded Sacchi’s house with helicopters and armored vehicles, evacuated neighbors and tried to negotiate with a dead man.

Now police believe that Sacchi, who was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to stalking his ex-wife, enticed them into an ambush Thursday as part of his suicide plans.

The siege began with a routine call to police. A young man _ Sacchi himself, they later concluded _ reported a man acting suspiciously outside 17 Morgan St., a large stucco house on a typically quiet block in this middle-class suburb north of New York City.

Two officers arrived arrived at about 3 p.m. Sacchi began shooting from the second floor window of his house.

Officer Richard Morrissey, 45, was hit in the scalp and pinned down in the street. His partner, Michael Frey, 29, was hit in the side and in both arms, dying instantly behind the wheel of his cruiser.

Sacchi kept spraying the area with about 50 shots, hitting trees and houses and shattering car windows as other officers converged on the scene and returned fire.

Neighbors _ including children at a nearby school _ ducked for cover. Morrisey rolled behind a car.

``Once in a while he moved, just to clean his blood,″ said Catherine de Pippo, 68, who watched from a window before retreating to a basement with her two grandchildren. ``I called to him, `Crawl, crawl, I will give you a towel!‴

Morrissey and four other officers were finally rescued with the help of an armored personnel carrier as New York City police hostage experts tried to negotiate with Sacchi by loudspeaker. They got nothing back but the music.

By 3:30 a.m., they decided to end the siege, firing tear gas canisters through the windows and infiltrating the house floor-by-floor. Dogs entered first, followed by officers using a camera-equipped robot.

When police finally edged into Sacchi’s room at 6 a.m. Friday, they found the 26-year-old lying on his bed beside a shotgun and a rifle, two of six guns he kept in the house, along with a bow-and-arrow.

Sacchi had scribbled messages on the wall in pencil. One read: ``Jesus, forgive me for my sins. I will see you in eternity.″ Another: ``my dad is the best dad in the world.″

He left out a black shirt and gray-black suit, beneath the scrawled words: ``clothes for me funiral.″

Sacchi had killed his grandmother, Catherine Sacchi, 88, apparently firing through a door at the top of the stairs. Sacchi’s small white terrier also was shot to death.

Sacchi’s motives weren’t clear, but he had pleaded guilty Feb. 23 to stalking his estranged wife, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and was scheduled to be sentenced April 12.

Sacchi had showed up at his estranged wife’s New York City apartment with a shotgun in December. Denise Sacchi said he had been taking Prozac for depression, and that the drug did not agree with him.

Police said Sacchi had been arrested for at least five misdemeanors, and had been given various penalties, including probation, fines and jail time.

Officer Frey’s family lamented the fact Sacchi was not in jail and said in a statement that there’s ``no justification for the arsenal he possessed.″

Sacchi ``had a pretty bad childhood,″ a neighbor, Richard Gasperi said. ``We could hear his father getting rough with him all the time.″

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