New Haven Police Officer Daniel Picagli, 38, remains in critical condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital after being struck on Tuesday night by a car driven by senior federal judge John M. Walker Jr. ’62.
Picagli was working a traffic detail in Wooster Square when the judge, who is in his mid-60s, struck him with his sport utility vehicle, causing the officer severe head injuries. New Haven Police Department spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said Walker, a visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School, stopped immediately after the accident and has cooperated fully with the police.
In a statement released Wednesday, NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz called Picagli a model officer and pillar of his community. A 17-year veteran of the force, Picagli has worked closely with the community as a school resource officer, as part of the Police Athletic League and most recently as part of the Family Services Division, Ortiz said. Over the years, city officials said, he has focused greatly on improving the department’s youth programs.
“[Picagli is] the face of community policing, a mentor and a role model,” Ortiz said. “We continue to pray for a full recovery.”
Like Ortiz, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has expressed his sympathy for Picagli and those close to him. City officials said DeStefano visited Picagli and his family at the hospital in the days following the accident to offer his support.
Although Winchester said Walker was not charged after the incident, the investigation into the accident is on-going. Walker served as the chief judge of 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for six years until he assumed senior status on Sept. 30 and is the first cousin of former President George H. W. Bush ’48.
Winchester said the NHPD is focusing on the well-being of Picagli and his family.
“[His family] is having very difficult time right now,” she said. “This was obviously unexpected for them.”
Ward 7 Alderwoman Bitsie Clark, whose ward neighbors the one in which Picagli was hit, said this accident is particularly tragic because it demonstrates how dangerous even the most routine parts of a police officer’s job can be.
“One of the things it does show is what a hazardous job being a police officer is,” she said. “It never occurs to people that officers standing in the middle of the street guarding the crosswalk are in danger, too.”
The accident coincides with other efforts to make city intersections safer. Anant Shah EPH ’07 recently started a petition urging city officials to improve the safety of the intersection of College Street and North Frontage Road after close friend and fellow student Lubna Shamsi EPH ’07 was seriously injured in a pedestrian accident.