PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — Two weeks after community activist Najee Seabrooks was killed when police responded to his apparent amid a mental health crisis, people close to him are analyzing the hours of police body camera footage that was publicly released by the New Jersey attorney general. Police are analyzing the video as well.
Fellow community activists said that the videos, recorded on more than a half-dozen cameras, show that the police response to their friend’s mental health episode was carried out poorly.
Liza Chowdury is the executive director of Reimagining Justice, the organization that oversees Paterson Healing Collective.
“He asked for our team; our team was outside,” Chowdury explained about the March 3 shooting.
Seabrooks had called 911 before 8 a.m. Police fatally shot him at 12:35 p.m. after he lunged at officers with a knife, according to the police report.
At various points throughout the more than four hours of video released by police, officers responded with guns drawn but did not shoot.
Seabrooks is heard in the video screaming. He also threw a container of water at officers, and at one point told officers, “I’m dying slowly. Let me die,” the videos showed.
One of the responding officers replied, “No. I want to help you.”
About three minutes before police shoot Seabrooks, a knife is visible in his hand, the video showed. Police said Seabrooks had also claimed he had a loaded gun.
Around 12:35 p.m., Seabrooks jumped out of the bathroom wielding the knife, the videos showed. It was captured on officers’ bodycameras.
Still, Chowdury, who’s handled mental health patients threatening harm in the past, said the situation involving her friend and mentee was mishandled.
“We begged the police,” Chowdury said about her response team, which was on the scene. “Showed them text messages, literally. [We said] he’s asking to hear our voice.”
On Friday, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh spoke about the incident in a pretaped interview for PIX on Politics.
“It is a true tragedy,” Sayegh said. “As far as the bodycams, I want people to see for themselves.
“Every single officer wears a body camera,” Sayegh continued. “So we have transparency and we have trust.”
A group of Paterson community activists has requested that the federal Justice Department launch a formal investigation of Paterson Police Department activities.