“You can have as many National Nights Out to try and show community and police officers hanging out together one night of the year, but if officers are shooting Black men with impunity, and without fear of accountability, it remains an exercise in photo opportunism,” Assemblyman Charles Barron stated as the NYPD address yet another fatal police involved shooting.
Neighbors described Dwayne Jeune as a person who was known to have mental health issues but was never violent. Although residents said he behaved strangely sometimes, he wasn’t considered a threat.
In yet another police shooting of a Black man at the hands of the NYPD, protocols on how the department deals with alleged suspects’ mental health issues are once again at the forefront.
Reports indicate the ordeal began when officers responded to a 911 call in the Flatbush Gardens apartments in East Flatbush, Brooklyn Monday. The call was made by the mother of 32-year-old Jeune, who said her son was acting erratically.
Four police officers from the 67th Precinct responded and allege that Jeune charged at them with a large carving knife. One of the police officers deployed a Taser, which proved to be ineffective. Officer Miguel Gonzalez fired five rounds from his gun, killing Jeune in front of his mother.
Officers were reportedly not wearing body cameras at the time of the incident. NYPD policy states that “deadly physical force will be used ONLY as a last resort to protect the life of the uniformed member of the service assigned or any other person present.”
NYPD brass admits that shooter Gonzalez was the only one of the four officers who had not undergone Crisis Intervention Training.
Shortly after the shooting the news surfaced that Gonzalez shot a man with bipolar disorder in 2016. According to police, Davonte Pressley, 23, called 911 saying that he had a gun and wanted to be shot by police. When officers arrived, they claimed that Pressley came at officers with a knife, resulting in Gonzalez shooting at him three times. Pressley did not die in the shooting.
Outrage yet again overcomes a community that believes police used excessive force and didn’t follow protocol. At a news conference Tuesday, Jeune’s father said his son did not deserve to die.
“My son is not a bad person,” he said. “He had his problems. When you call upon those who you believe will help you—and all they do is to kill.”
City Council Member Jumaane Williams said it was “concerning” that someone died following what was supposed to be a call to protect life. His office is looking into what happened.
“Officers are often times put in harrowing situations, and in this case it appears decisions had to be made in a matter of seconds,” he said. “This is why it is important that responders to Emotionally Disturbed Persons are equipped to handle the situation. A specific set of skills and sensitivity is needed when dealing with people who are some of the people in need the most.”
Initially Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office acknowledged on Twitter that he had been briefed on the shooting. Late in a televised interview, he offered his take on the incident.
“This happens very quickly, where officers are in immediate danger, or someone else might be—a civilian or a family member might be in immediate danger,” he said. “So we have to get all those facts.”
“This is now at least the third person in emotional distress killed by the NYPD within less than a year, and at least the ninth during the de Blasio administration,” said Carolyn Martinez-Class, representative for Communities United for Police Reform.
Williams stated, “We are trying our best to let the story play out, but at the same time we are not going to fail the people of Flatbush Gardens. We’re calling for an independent investigation by the district attorney and attorney general to look into this case. We’re also requesting a response within 60 days explaining what the protocol is for Emotional Disturbed Persons, and what will be changed going forward, so that the entire police department and community is aware. We have to consider that perhaps it’s not always the police department that has to respond.”
Meanwhile, Jeune’s death is being compared to the fatal police shooting of Eleanor Bumpurs
in the Bronx in 1984, Mohamed Bah in Harlem in 2012 and the 2016 police killing of Deborah Danner. In that case, officers responded to a 911 call about 66-year-old Danner, who was acting irrationally. Allegedly armed with scissors, she was convinced by an officer in her seventh floor apartment to put them down before allegedly picking up a baseball bat. NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry fired two shots into her torso. Charges were later brought against Barry.
“Time after time, families are victimized in this way after seeking help, and the justifications for these killings have become routine by this city and entirely dehumanizing,” said Martinez-Class. “While the NYPD seeks to justify its actions, there are serious questions about NYPD’s systemic failures leading to the loss of another life that appears to have been preventable and whether officers actually followed protocol or best practice. “
Bob Gangi, an activist who is also running for mayor, determined that there must be “specific steps to remedy the continuing problem of NYPD officers harming or killing mentally ill New Yorkers. We need to develop and implement a new policy aimed at ending these terrible and unnecessary fatalities.
Central to effective reform is to ensure that mental health professionals, not police officers, are the first responders to situations involving people in psychiatric crisis. 911 dispatchers should all have at their disposal a list of community-based mental health agencies for every neighborhood in the city. In response to an emergency, a trained professional will arrive at the scene with officers only as backup where appropriate. The decision to use physical restraints, if necessary, will be the mental health professional’s, not the police officer’s. Such a practice represents a more effective and benign response to the problem at hand. It will save lives rather than take them.”