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Man with fake gun at airport wanted to speak to president

Michael Pettigrew, 26, was arrested after a standoff that ended without shots being fired.
Michael Pettigrew, 26, was arrested after a standoff that ended without shots being fired.
Published Jun. 1, 2017

ORLANDO — A mentally distressed ex-Marine who pointed a fake handgun at police in the Orlando International Airport and shouted "kill me" said he wanted to speak to the president, according to an arrest affidavit released Wednesday.

Michael Wayne Pettigrew, 26, was arrested after the almost three-hour standoff that ended peacefully Tuesday night. Police have called it an attempted "suicide by cop."

Pettigrew was charged with aggravated assault on a firefighter and was forcibly committed for short-term mental health observation under Florida's Baker Act.

Court records show Pettigrew was denied bail Wednesday because of his mental health evaluation, but another bail hearing was scheduled for today.

The episode started Tuesday night when Pettigrew approached a cashier at a taxi company in the airport and showed her what looked like a gun. Pettigrew gave his cellphone to her and told her to call 911 because he wanted to bring the police and speak to the president, according to the affidavit.

Pettigrew pointed the fake gun at officers as they arrived at the airport's rental car section; he also pointed the gun at himself. No shots were fired, and no one was hurt. One officer raised the muzzle of his rifle but didn't fire because passengers "were running everywhere," the affidavit said.

The responding officers tried to talk to Pettigrew for a half hour until SWAT team members and police negotiators arrived.

"Our negotiators did a phenomenal job of talking with the subject for about two hours and finally got him to peacefully surrender," Orlando police Chief John Mina said Tuesday night.

Minutes before appearing at the airport, Pettigrew texted a friend that he wanted to be killed by police officers, according to a recorded 911 call released Wednesday.