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NYPD Officer Who Shot Himself Was Wanted as 'Witness' in Corruption Probe

By Murray Weiss | October 1, 2016 12:39pm | Updated on October 3, 2016 7:33am
 Indicted Deputy Inspector James Grant, pictured, was an associate of Lt. Peter Salzone, who shot himself after being told the FBI wanted to question him as a
Indicted Deputy Inspector James Grant, pictured, was an associate of Lt. Peter Salzone, who shot himself after being told the FBI wanted to question him as a "witness" in a federal corruption probe.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

QUEENS — The off-duty NYPD lieutenant who shot himself in the stomach Friday afternoon was recently told by the feds that they wanted to question him as a "witness" in their ongoing investigation of NYPD corruption, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Lt. Peter Salzone, who fired several bullets into his stomach, was a longtime associate of indicted Deputy Inspector James Grant, who along with other police officials is accused of accepting gifts and lavish favors from two allegedly corrupt businessmen with close ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Salzone is the second officer to shoot himself, apparently in connection with the corruption scandal.

Last May, Inspector Michael Ameri, the well-respected head of the NYPD's Highways Division, killed himself after he was questioned by federal investigators as a possible witness in the case, after being suspected of obtaining police escorts for friends.

Sources say Salzone met Deputy Inspector Grant while Grant was the commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct in Sunset Park.

When Grant was transferred to run the 19th Precinct on Manhattan’s Upper East Side several years ago, he brought Salzone with him, sources say.

Salzone served as the 19th Precinct’s Integrity Control officer, overseeing actions of fellow officers in the command to ensure that they were not violating any department regulations or protocols.

A 23-year veteran, Salzone was at his girlfriend’s home in Bayside when he fired four shots, at least two striking him in the stomach.

In an unusual move, the NYPD early Saturday morning placed Salzone on modified assignment, stripping him of his weapons and badge, while he was unconscious and being treated for his self-inflicted gunshot wounds at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island.

 Lt. Peter Salzone shot himself after being told the FBI wanted to question him as a witness in a federal corruption probe, sources said.
Lt. Peter Salzone shot himself after being told the FBI wanted to question him as a witness in a federal corruption probe, sources said.
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File

The sources could provide no other explanation yesterday as to why Salzone would try to harm himself other than the recent development involving the feds.

"The job and their image means everything to some people," one source said, trying to explain why an officer who was only a "witness" in a case might still shoot himself. "It's about appearances, and perhaps the guilt of having to talk about close associates or friends."

Grant, Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, and two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, have been charged by the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in the sweeping NYPD and political scandal. Rechnitz has become a cooperating informant for the government.

Federal prosecutors have separately subpoenaed several top officials in the Mayor’s office as well as in Mayor de Blasio’s campaign fundraising apparatus.

In addition to Grant and Harrington, NYPD Sergeant David Valenueva and Officer Richard Ochetal have been arrested on charges that they providing gun permits to unqualified applicants in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes.

A handful of other top NYPD officials have also retired in connection with the corruption probe.

And Norman Seabrook, former head of the correction officers union, and Murray Huberfield, a hedge fund operator, have been charged with bribery-related charges in yet another aspect of the probe involving pension funds.