Najee Seabrooks requested the police.
“I think some people waiting for me, when I walk out, so I need help, I need an escort to my car,” he told a dispatcher. “Can you send two, please?”
Within hours, Seabrooks would pass away at the hands of the Paterson police officers assigned to assist him, sparking outrage about police brutality and what critics claim is the widespread mistreatment of those experiencing mental health crises throughout the state and beyond.
Once the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office released 911 calls and footage from police body cameras relating to the death of Seabrooks on March 3, a fuller picture of the police response became apparent on Thursday. The video contains some frightening and violent scenes.
The Paterson Healing Collective, which response to such appeals to ease tensions and link those in need with treatment, employed 31-year-old Seabrooks as an interventionist.
When other cops in tactical gear had their rifles pointed toward the bathroom where Seabrooks had barricaded himself, one of the officers said to Seabrooks, “Nobody is going to shoot you.”
“Let’s get you help,” another cop told him.
“No one is trying to hurt you,” a dispatcher told Seabrooks one of the several times he contacted 911 for aid.
The records were made public by the Attorney General’s Office even as demonstrators gathered in front of the Paterson federal building to call for justice for Seabrooks and responsibility from a police force that has long been criticized for being brutal and corrupt.
Advocates for racial justice have urged the US Department of Justice to look into Seabrooks’ passing. According to NJ Spotlight, he was the eighth individual to pass away during a police encounter in Paterson since 2019—the most of any municipality in the state.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, police were called to Seabrooks’ brother’s Mill Street residence at 7:43 a.m., where his family claimed Seabrooks had gone about six hours earlier. He was hallucinating and probably having a terrible response to something he smoked, according to his family, who also said that his acts were very out of character. They requested an ambulance.
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According to bodycam footage from the Attorney General’s Office, relatives and police officers begged Seabrooks to exit the bathroom over the following five hours. According to the Attorney General’s Office, Seabrooks cut himself during that period, threatened suicide, set fire to the toilet, flooded the apartment, and threw objects at police.
About 15 “less-than-lethal, sponge-tipped projectiles” were fired by officers at Seabrooks without having any impact.
One officer’s body cam film revealed that the boy’s sobbing mother stood at the closed door, hugged him, and begged him to come out.
At 12:35 PM, Seabrooks came out of the restroom and “lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand,” according to the Attorney General’s Office. Officers Anzore Tsay and Jose Hernandez fired their weapons, striking Seabrooks, who was pronounced dead at Saint Joseph’s Hospital Center 16 minutes after the shooting.
It is challenging to objectively confirm the authorities’ account of the encounter because cops frequently block the view of the cameras in bodycam footage of the incident.
Hector Mendez, Qiao Lin, and Mario Vdovjak were the officers who used “less than lethal force” on Seabrooks.
According to state law, grand juries must be informed of fatal police contacts to decide whether or not the officers involved should be charged.
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