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A Long Island teen who had a "death wish" because of a $6,000 World Series gambling debt used a $1.75 toy gun to force cops to shoot and kill him, police said yesterday. The shaken officers were stunned to find a suicide note inside the man's car apologizing for making them kill him.

"Tell the police officers that I'm sorry, but I wanted to die," read the note from 19-year-old Moshe Pergament. Pergament, a student at Nassau Community College, "had a death wish," said Officer Bruce Benson. The previous day, he told a female friend he wanted to kill himself because he owed $6,000 from World Series gambling, cops said.

The Manhasset Hills teen was driving erratically on the Long Island Expressway on Friday night in an apparent effort to getpulled over, police said. After stopping on the shoulder of the highway in Syosset, Pergament leaped out of the car, pulled a silver-colored gun from his waistband and began waving it at the cop who had pulled him over, Officer Thomas Pollack.

Pollack backed away behind his patrol car and ordered Pergament to drop his gun. But the distraught teen kept walking forward, pointing the toy gun - which looked "very real" - at the cop, said Benson. At that point, another cop, Anthony Sica, arrived at the scene. The teen turned the toy gun on Sica and began walking toward him, ignoring the cop's repeated commands to drop the weapon. When Pergament came within 12 feet of Sica, the officer fired three shots, police said.

Incredibly, the wounded man kept walking toward Sica. Pollack then fired one shot at the teen, and Pergament collapsed to the ground, officials said. It wasn't until after the shooting that the cops inspected Pergament's "weapon" and realized it was a fake.

"Those officers were put in a situation that no officer ever wants to be in," said Benson. "They gave him every opportunity, and he backed them into a corner." Benson, who is a close friend of one of the officers, added, "These cops have to live with this for the rest of their lives."

Pergament's neighbors were shocked to hear about the teen they knew as a happy young man who loved sports. "He was a darling boy," said neighbor Marion Karnett, who nicknamed him "Handsome" because of his good looks and smile. A friend who left after visiting the family said, "They're devastated. They're speechless. They're just overcome with grief."

New York Post

Date: 11-16-97