SYOSSET, NY — By most accounts, Moshe "Moe" Pergament was a well-mannered college student. So polite that he addressed a note to police apologizing for what he was about to do. So polite that he wrote a stack of good-bye cards to loved ones.

"I'm sorry to get you involved," Pergament, 19, said in a letter addressed in advance "To the officer who shot me!"

"I just needed to die," he wrote.

Pergament, depressed over $6,000 in gambling debts, got himself shot by threatening officers with what turned out to be a toy gun, police said. They call it "suicide by cop" — and they've seen it before on rare occasions. Pergament threatened officers with a toy gun.

Bob Louden, director of the Criminal Justice Center at John Jay College, is a former hostage negotiator for the New York Police Department. He says the problem exists "anecdotally," although there are no figures on how prevalent it is.

Pergament appears to have set up the scene of his death Friday, buying a $1.79 silver-colored toy revolver earlier in the day. He also went to a card store near his home in Manhasset, Long Island, and bought nine greeting cards that police say he made out to family and friends.

According to police, Pergament was speeding and driving erratically Friday night on the Long Island Expressway, apparently in an effort to get stopped by a patrol car. When Officer Thomas Pollock pulled the car over in Syosset, Pergament jumped out and began waving his arms wildly.

Pollock ordered Pergament back into the car, and Pergament pulled the toy revolver from his waistband. A second officer, Anthony Sica, arrived, and Pergament turned the gun on him, police say. They say he began advancing toward Sica, ignoring repeated commands to drop the gun.

When Pergament was 12 feet away, Sica fired two to three times, police say. Pollock, who said Pergament still kept walking toward Sica, fired once more. Pergament was hit at least once, police say.

After he collapsed, the officers said, they realized his weapon was a toy.

Police have not revealed the contents of the good-bye cards, found in the car with Pergament's suicide note. The note read:

Officer, It was a plan. I'm sorry to get you involved. I just needed to die. Please send my letters and break the news slowly to my family and let them know I had to do this. And that I love them very much.

I'm sorry for getting you involved. Please remember that this was all my doing. You had no way of knowing. Moe Pergament.