Brooklyn, NY – New York Police Department (NYPD) officers found 40 to 60 dead bodies stacked in the back of unrefrigerated U-Haul trucks and on the floor of a funeral home in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
The discovery occurred after neighbors called police to report a foul odor in the area of the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home on Utica Avenue, the New York Post reported.
NYPD officers who responded to the scene shortly before 5 p.m. on April 29 found two unrefrigerated U-Haul trucks parked in front of the funeral home holding corpses, and more bodies on the floor inside the facility.
The bodies in the trucks were stacked on top of each other and neighboring business owners called police after fluids leaked out of the trucks and caused a terrible smell.
The owner of a property nearby, Joe Pietro, told the New York Post he had seen the funeral home storing dead bodies in the U-Haul trucks out front for several weeks.
“You don’t respect the dead that way,” Pietro said. “That could have been my father, my brother. You don’t do that to the dead.”
Police sources told the New York Post that the funeral home also had two more refrigerated trucks storing dead bodies and a box truck full of empty caskets.
The funeral home told police officers that the bodies in the trucks were supposed to have been picked up by a crematorium, but nobody showed up to get them.
“I ran out of space,” Andrew Cleckley, the owner of the funeral home, told The New York Times. “Bodies are coming out of our ears.”
Cleckley said he had already stored more than 100 bodies in the chapel of his funeral home and that he hadn’t been able to get more refrigerated trucks delivered.
The police contacted the state health department, and shortly thereafter, workers began moving the corpses from the trucks into a series of minivans that arrived to pick them up, the New York Post reported.
“You don’t see this all over the city — especially in a residential neighborhood,” one NYPD source said. “Never seen anything like this.”
Multiple agencies, including the health department, are investigating the happenings at the Brooklyn funeral home, the New York Post reported.
While the health department website does list Cleckley as a licensed funeral director, the certificate of operation for the space he used as his funeral parlor was registered for “automobile retail” and “the manufacturing of machinery,” The New York Times reported.
And New York Funeral Directors Association President Mike Lanotte said Cleckley was not a member of their professional organization.
Despite that, Cleckley told The New York Times that he and his wife, Alva Stuart, opened as a full-service funeral home that offered embalming and cremation in 2017.
Legally-licensed funeral homes are subject to rigorous health inspections and the New York Board of Health said they were investigating what happened at the Cleckley facility.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the scene at the Andrew T. Cleckley funeral home “absolutely unacceptable,” The New York Times reported.
“They have an obligation to the people they serve to treat them with dignity,” de Blasio said. “I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen.”