Officers 'did everything they could to avoid tragic outcome' in deadly shooting, Paterson mayor says

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, March 17, 2023
Mayor of Paterson reacts to deadly police confrontation
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The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey defended police Friday following the release of a video showing part of what led to Najee Seabrooks' death. NJ Burkett has the story.

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey defended police Friday following the release of a video showing part of what led to Najee Seabrooks' death.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh was one of many who urged the attorney general to release the video. He believes the officers were justified.

"They arrived on that scene, and it was a five-hour standoff, they arrived at the scene looking to render aid, but they also did everything they could to avoid a tragic outcome," Mayor Andre Sayegh said. "It's an ongoing investigation, but as far as what I've read so far, it looks like the officers did everything they could to prevent a tragic outcome."

But others don't agree with the mayor.

"I think that we have to question the moral compass of the mayor if he believes that the death of another human being is justified, especially someone that is going through a mental health crisis," said Zellie Thomas of Black Lives Matter Paterson. "And what we say is that if you treat someone with compassion, and recognize them as a human being, it should have went on for six hours, seven hours, nine hours."

The deadly shooting happened on March 3, when Paterson police officers responded to Mill Street after receiving a 911 call from an individual in distress.

The body camera footage was released Thursday.

Officials say the individual, identified as 31-year-old Najee Seabrooks, was having a mental health crisis.

When officers arrived, they encountered family members of Seabrooks. They told the officers that Seabrooks was hallucinating and behaving erratically. At the family's request, the officers called an ambulance.

The family escorted officers to an apartment, where they spoke with Seabrooks, who had locked himself inside a bathroom in the apartment.

The family said he may have been experiencing a bad reaction to something he had smoked that made him act out of character.

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Officials say the family members told the police that they believed he had arrived at the apartment around 2:00 a.m., and in the morning, grabbed some knives and locked himself inside the bathroom.

Seabrooks' mom is seen on the video pleading with her son to come out of the bathroom.

She is heard saying, "Najee stop this, I am your mother, open the door."

Officers try to reason with him and EMT offers medical help. Seabrooks even calls 911 while police are there.

Hours into the negotiations between the 31-year-old and the officers, police say they heard a loud crash from inside the bathroom and water began to flood the apartment.

That's when the situation escalates. Authorities say Seabrooks was armed with knives and told police he had a loaded gun.

Video from other body-worn cameras show officers coming into the apartment with bigger weapons and aiming them at the door.

Around 12:25 p.m., officials say Seabrooks came out of the bathroom and lunged towards the officers with a knife in his hand. That's when the officers shoot Seabrooks. The terrifying moments were caught on body camera footage.

According to the attorney general, before the fatal shots officers fired 15 non-lethal, sponge-tipped bullets that failed to subdue Seabrooks, but because he had flooded the bathroom, the use of tasers was reportedly considered too dangerous.

Seabrooks' death has sparked outrage from other community activists.

The release of the video comes after vigils and calls for transparency, some accusing Paterson Police of excessive use of force.

Seabrooks worked for an organization dedicated to stopping gun violence in Paterson.

The attorney general's office says investigation is not over.

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