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Paterson mayor, community call on authorities to release body cam video of fatal police shooting

The fatal shooting of an anti-violence advocate in Paterson that triggered large protests is now under scrutiny by the city's leadership.

Matt Trapani and Nick Meidanis

Mar 8, 2023, 1:51 PM

Updated 471 days ago

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The mayor of Paterson is aligned with city activists calling for authorities to release police body camera video of the deadly shooting of an anti-violence advocate by police officers during a standoff on March 3.
Attorney General Matt Platkin is leading the investigation into the shooting of Najee Seabrooks. His office released more information about the shooting on Wednesday – one day after hundreds of people rallied at Paterson City Hall demanding answers.
“We want the truth, and that’s why we want the immediate release of this body camera footage,” says Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.
Friends say that Seabrooks has dedicated his life to ending gun violence in Paterson. He worked for the Paterson Healing Collective.
But the Office of the Attorney General says that Seabrooks barricaded himself in a bathroom in an apartment on Mill Street after experiencing what has been described as a mental health crisis. The standoff lasted five hours. Crisis negotiators were on the scene. The attorney general says that officers tried to use “less lethal force,” although it is unclear what exactly that means.
Platkin says that eventually Officers Anzore Tsay and Jose Hernandez shot and killed Seabrooks. A source close to the investigation tells News 12 that Seabrooks had knives and made threats. But the attorney general did not address this allegation in his media release on Wednesday.
The shooting comes about a month after the state expanded a program that partners mental health experts with police officers. The program allows them to drive to a call together in unmarked cars. The hope is to fight the stigma of mental illness and avoid the use of deadly force.
"It's reaching people faster. It's helping to change the relationships between law enforcement and the community,” says Lisa Dressner, vice president of behavioral health at Trinitas Medical Center.
Her hospital is part of the pilot program for the last eight months doing one shift per week in Elizabeth and Linden. But she says it's really designed as an approach before things get violent.
"The more people understand this is a model that is accessible, people will be more likely to call before things become, you know, so difficult for them to manage at home,” says Dressner.
Paterson is in the planning stages of a similar program. Data shows that in New Jersey, nearly 70% of the time police use force -- it's against someone with mental illness or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Seabrooks’ colleagues at the Paterson Healing Collective have trained for a crisis like this before. They say that they were on the scene and tried to help, but that police denied them access to Seabrooks.


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