Violence Intervention Activist Killed in Paterson, NJ, Police Standoff, Reports Say
PATERSON — A man identified by a local community group as one of their own has been shot and killed during a standoff with police and the Attorney General's Office is investigating.
Police officials said officers responded to a call of an emotionally disturbed person at an apartment on Mill Street on Friday morning. State authorities said that an adult male civilian died in a shooting around 12:30 PM. An investigation is underway.
The Paterson Healing Collective and multiple media reports have identified the man as Najee Seabrooks. NorthJersey.com reported that the violence intervention activist barricaded himself inside his apartment for five hours before cops went in and the encounter turned fatal.
Mason Maher, president of the Paterson Superior Officers police union, reportedly said that Seabrooks let the officers into the apartment and then came at them with a knife.
But activists still say the shooting could have been avoided. A petition created by Black Lives Matter Paterson states that Seabrooks should have received help from those who knew him.
"Family and friends begged police to let them talk to Najee to help resolve the situation themselves," the petition says. "Police refused to leave and insisted that they were professionals and could handle it. Najee was not armed with a gun of any kind."
The New Jersey Violence Intervention and Prevention Coalition released a statement also saying that the shooting was avoidable.
"Najee dedicated his life to reducing gun violence in Paterson," the coalition said. "It is deeply distressing to hear that, in the midst of a mental health crisis, Najee's team, his family, was not allowed to do the work they were trained to do. When he needed his community the most, he was denied the help he required, and the police response failed him."
Mayor Andre Sayegh gave NorthJersey.com a limited statement.
“This is being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office,” Sayegh said.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, told NBC 4 New York that he worked with the Paterson Healing Collective recently.
"I know the family too, very sad, the organization that was represented," said Pascrell. "The officers were working in good faith but somebody died, so we have to look at it to see what we can learn."
"Our thoughts are with the Paterson Healing Collective as they mourn the loss of a team member," Gov. Murphy said on Twitter. "We must remain committed to making our state safer for all."