JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX11) — The family of a Jersey City man with mental illness said there are still many unanswered questions following his death in a police-involved shooting.
Andrew Jerome Washington’s family said they called the Jersey City Medical Center Crisis Center for help around 3 p.m. Sunday, but police arrived instead.
“If you ask anyone who Andrew Jerome Washington is, they’ll tell you he’s a funny, good person,” Lisa Mendez, Washington’s aunt, told PIX11 News. “The only thing was that he had an illness.”
Washington, 52, had been treated for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for decades, according to his two aunts. They said he had been acting strangely the last few days, talking loudly to himself and banging on the apartment walls.
The family said they believed he was off his medication and would harm himself. They said they called the Jersey City Medical Center Crisis Center for help. Instead, several police officers arrived at the apartment on Randolph Avenue.
“You’re going into his apartment; please, if you have to use anything, please use a pellet gun,” Mendez told PIX11. “Please do not shoot Drew. Then I heard this pow, pow, pow, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, they shot him.’”
They said police fired two shots using real bullets. Family members said he died after surgery at Jersey City Medical Center.
“I don’t understand it because we called the crisis center for help,” Doris Ervin, another aunt, told PIX11.
Family members said police arrived at Washington’s home on Saturday before Sunday’s fatal shooting after they called the crisis center for help. They said Washington stayed outside on his stoop and refused to go with the police, so officers left.
His family said Washington has had a long history with the Jersey City Medical Center Crisis Center and Jersey City Police. He was shot in the arm by police in 2011 when they said he was refusing medical help.
“I think the crisis center should’ve done a better job. The police should’ve done a better job. They should’ve had more compassion,” Mendez said.
Jersey City police told PIX11 that officers responded to help EMS with a violent and emotionally disturbed person. According to police, Washington charged at them with a knife as officers attempted to de-escalate the situation.
Police said a Taser was used before an officer fired their gun. The incident was captured on multiple body cameras that will be turned over to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office as part of the investigation, authorities said.
Washington’s sister, Courtnie, sent PIX11 a statement from where she lives in California.
“Drew was one of the most incredible and charismatic human beings I’ve ever known and loved. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was so passionate, loving and wise. He taught me how to be grateful for every experience. Bipolar disorder changed all of our lives and when he was diagnosed over 20 years ago the most amazing thing was it never changed his heart, his love, or his light. My mother and I never imagined we’d be in this position where her son and my brother could be in his own home and be killed by the people who are supposed to serve and protect us. We will never be the same and pray we are given answers and the hospital and police take accountability for not providing the care he deserved and for killing a man in his own home while his family begged them to not hurt him. Our family was there. Our family told them he was not a danger to the police. He has a well documented history of mental illness. I spoke to the police just yesterday and asked them to please take him into the crisis center for evaluation and a day later he’s just gone. This shouldn’t have happened. I’m not sure I have fully accepted this and I can’t imagine this life without him. Thank you for caring enough to tell this story.“Courtnie Washington