Videos show tense standoff before fatal NJ police shooting

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TRENTON, NJ — A five-hour standoff between Paterson, New Jersey, police and a well-known anti-violence worker in the city, which ended when officers fatally shot him in his brother’s apartment, began with sobs from the man’s mother for him to will finish. the proof.

Details released this week by the New Jersey attorney general’s office, including hours of body camera footage from seven officers as well as seven 911 recordings, provide the most comprehensive account yet of the March 3 standoff that ended with the death of Najee Seabrooks.

Seabrooks, 31, was a crisis intervention worker and mentor with the nonprofit Paterson Healing Collective and died shortly after he was shot by police when he came out with a knife from the bathroom of the apartment where he was hiding, according to the office of the attorney general.

“I’m your mother, why are you doing this?” Seabrooks’ mother screamed in a video. “Najee, stop because I am your mother. Open the door. Open the door, Najee. Seabrooks’ response is inaudible on the video.

Long accustomed to helping others in the mid-size city 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of New York, Seabrooks’ coworkers were devastated by her death and say authorities prevented them from using her health expertise. mind to reduce the situation.

It also led to the state attorney general’s office investigating the shooting, as required by state law, as well as a public outcry over a Justice Department investigation into the city’s police department.

Seabrooks called 911 just before 8 a.m. and told dispatcher he needed immediate help because someone was threatening to kill him and he needed to be escorted to his car. He called dispatchers half a dozen more times, only to be told by those who answered that the police had already been dispatched.

Videos show officers arriving, introducing themselves and offering to bring her water. He asks to speak to a sergeant, who soon arrives and asks him to come out of the bathroom. “What’s up, my love,” says the sergeant when she arrives.

It’s hard to hear Seabrooks in part of the video, but the sergeant asks, “How do you want to get hurt?”

“They pointed a gun at me,” he said.

Do you have a gun and two knives? asks the sergeant.

The tension increased at that moment.

Over the next four hours, more police officers enter the apartment. According to the attorney general’s office, there were crisis negotiators, emergency medical personnel and Paterson police officers.

At one point water can be heard and seen flooding the apartment hallway from the bathroom. A fire alarm sounds, when officers realize a fire had apparently started. Later, the bathroom door is open and Seabrooks appears shirtless.

The officers fired 15 non-lethal rounds at him, according to the attorney general’s office. An officer says on video that Seabrooks had been cutting himself.

“Just let me die,” Seabrooks is heard saying. “I am slowly dying.”

An officer responds: “No, come on. I want to help you.”

The videos and calls have been redacted, with the videos frequently obscured by whatever the officer is wearing.

Some of Seabrooks’ final moments appear in a partially obscured clip. Still in the bathroom, she asks to speak to her mother and an officer tells her they can take her away.

“No, come on, man. We are going to take you to your mom,” the officer said. “I’m sure she doesn’t want to see you like this.”

Seabrooks came out of the bathroom the next moment.

“Let go,” the officer yelled as shots rang out.

Seabrooks was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead just over five hours after the first 911 call.

His death has unsettled his co-workers, who were at the scene and texting with him, Seabrooks boss at Paterson Healing Collective, Liza Chowdhury, said in a phone interview Friday. She said Seabrooks had been texting his colleagues, asking to see them, but police prevented the coworkers from entering the apartment.

“We helped so many people and then when our team member needed help, we were denied to do what we do,” he said.

She added: “That was clearly a mental health call. In mental health situations. It requires patience, empathy, and asking what the person needs.”

In the two weeks after Seabrooks’ death, anti-violence advocates held a vigil calling for a series of reforms, including the creation of a civilian review board. The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has called on the Justice Department to investigate the city’s police department, and the ACLU of New Jersey said the shooting shows the need to invest in non-police responses to mental health calls.

Messages seeking comment were left with the mayor of Paterson and the director of public safety.

New Jersey began requiring the state attorney general to investigate fatal police-involved encounters in 2019, including the presentation of evidence before a grand jury.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that the investigation is continuing and no other information will be released.

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