PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — The New Jersey Attorney General’s office released hours of body camera footage Thursday showing the Paterson police officers involved in the shooting death of 31-year-old Najee Seabrooks on March 3.
Seabrooks’ death sparked community outrage and a demand for answers. The newly released footage offers a glimpse of what happened.
“People are trying to kill me,” said Seabrooks, his voice captured on an officer’s body camera video. “I need an escort right now.”
Seabrooks had barricaded himself behind his bathroom door as the first officers responded to his 911 calls for help on the morning of March 3.
Seabrooks was reportedly in the midst of a mental health crisis. Police observed knives in his hands, and Seabrooks reportedly told them he had a fully loaded gun. Family members said he may have experienced a bad reaction to a drug, and they called his behavior completely out of character.
According to body camera footage and the Attorney General’s report, crisis negotiators and family unsuccessfully tried to convince Seabrooks to surrender and accept help.
Officers are heard saying multiple times to Seabrooks, “We just want to get you help.”
Over the course of four-and-a-half hours, police reportedly tried several times to use non-lethal force. Officers said Seabrooks emerged from the bathroom and lunged at them with a knife. Two officers fired in response.
In the wake of Seabrooks’ death, several former colleagues and family members have claimed police barred them from trying to help.
“I keep replaying Friday over and over,” said Liza Chowdhury, a coworker at Paterson Healing Collective. “Our team of crisis responders begged the police to allow us to help.”
Dr. Keith Taylor, a criminal justice professor and NYPD veteran, said law enforcement appeared to have done all the right things.
“They had specialized units, trained negotiators,” said Taylor. “They had less-than-lethal force available and they used it. They interacted with him for multiple hours, and it was not until he came out and charged them with a knife that they had to use deadly physical force to stop him.“
Taylor said crisis situations are extremely difficult to navigate.
“It is beyond stressful,” said Taylor. “It is extremely difficult to manage a situation where you’re concerned about your safety, the safety of others and the individual whose life you’re trying to save.”
The Attorney General’s investigation remains ongoing. Once it is complete, all investigations will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide if any officers should face charges.