New Haven Police Officer Daniel Picagli, 38, died Saturday evening after suffering critical injuries last Tuesday night when he was struck by a car driven by senior federal judge John Walker Jr. ’62, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School.
Picagli, who was known throughout the force and the community for his extensive work with youth and schools, was hit while working an extra traffic detail near a construction site on Chapel Street. Colleagues, family, friends and government officials gathered at Yale-New Haven Hospital after he died Saturday evening.
Police said Walker, a cousin of George H.W. Bush ’48, has cooperated fully with the investigation, and no charges have been brought against him. Walker could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
In a statement issued yesterday, New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said Picagli’s death is a great loss for the city.
“We will never forget Officer Dan Picagli,” Ortiz said after visiting the hospital Saturday night. “We will memorialize his contributions to the community through the police department in the years to come. We ask that the community continue to pray for his family in this difficult time.”
Starting off his police career as a school resource officer 17 years ago, Picagli immersed himself in his work with youth in the community. He had also worked for the Police Athletic League and most recently served in the Family Services Division, where he worked in Youth Oriented Policing.
Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart, in whose ward Picagli was struck last Tuesday, said his constituents, particularly children, have already felt the loss of the officer.
“I think he certainly was a hardworking, dedicated officer, and he would reach out to the community he worked in,” he said. “He certainly played a big role in the kids’ lives. They made a quilt for him that he unfortunately never got to see.”
Smart said he first heard about the accident when his constituents called him after noticing ambulances and police cars around the site where Picagli was hit. Community members have continued to call him to express concern for Picagli, he said.
Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield visited the hospital shortly after Picagli’s death on Saturday along with many members of the NHPD and Picagli’s family. He said it was one of the saddest gatherings he had ever attended.
“Everyone I’ve talked to said he was an extraordinary person and officer,” Goldfield said. “It wasn’t even the way you would expect an officer to die. It’s just an awful accident.”
Goldfield said he could not remember the last time an officer had died on duty in the city.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in a statement that he shared in the city’s grief at losing such a highly-esteemed officer.
“More than any memorial, his basic decency will keep his memory vibrant in our city,” DeStefano said. “On behalf of all of the people of New Haven, I extend my sympathy to his wife, Dee, his children and his family for the loss of a faithful and decent son of our city.”
Picagli is survived by a wife and four children. No funeral arrangements had been finalized as of Sunday night.