NEW YORK, New York August 9, 2017 (CMC) – Caribbean-American legislators are calling for a probe into the July 31 fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed Guyanese national by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, as outrage intensifies in the Caribbean community, in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Council Member, Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, has joined New York State Senator, Kevin S. Parker, New York State Assembly Member, Jamaican Nick Perry, Caribbean American Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke, and community leaders, in calling for the special probe into the shooting death of 32-year-old Dwayne Jeune.
Jeune was killed by the police officer, after authorities were called to his residence by his mother, who had reported he was behaving erratically.
Williams, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that officers initially attempted to subdue Jeune “by tasing him after he allegedly charged at them with a knife”.
“We have now seen too many deaths with the same description. Officers are, often times, put in harrowing situations; and, in this case, it appears decisions had to be made in a matter of seconds.
“This is why it is important that responders to Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDP) are equipped to handle the situation,” Williams said, adding “a specific set of skills and sensitivity are needed when dealing with people, who are some of the people in need the most.”
Williams wants an independent investigation by acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, and New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, as well as a response, within 60 days, explaining the protocol for calls dealing with EDPs.
Williams said concerns regarding police officers’ capabilities in dealing with EDPs have been “called into question”.
He noted that, in October last year, 66-year-old Deborah Danner was killed by a New York police sergeant in her Bronx apartment, after neighbours called 911 to report she was acting erratically.
“There was a failure,” said Parker, who represents the primarily Caribbean 21st Senatorial District in Brooklyn.
“We are asking Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to assign a special prosecutor. People who are living in my district are not nails; they should not be pounded into the ground.”
Congresswoman Clarke, the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, also joined in mourning Jeune’s “untimely death” and expressing outrage.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the beloved community, in this time of bereavement,” said the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.
“We must remain vigilant, as we wait for a full accounting of how a call for help from the New York City Police Department took such a tragic turn.
“Based on the information now available, I have very serious concerns about the adherence to NYPD protocols, when encountering mentally disturbed persons in our community. Such important protocols have been instituted, so that this tragedy could have been avoided,” Clarke said.
She said, when responding to a report of an emotionally disturbed individual, police officers “must have the skills to handle the situation, with sensitivity to the needs of the individual and a commitment to preventing needless suffering and death.
“Unfortunately, we have witnessed too many deaths under similar circumstances. We must demand accountability from the officers who respond when the mentally disturbed are in distress and need assistance. We need a comprehensive strategy to prevent this kind of incident from ever occurring again.”
Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Regional Director for the National Action Network, a civil rights organization, said “we have a systemic and institutional problem”.
“We can no longer afford to take things at face value,” he said. “We are calling on the district attorney to investigate. We are calling on Eric Schneiderman, who has been empowered by an executive order by Governor Cuomo to look into these police killings.”
Monique Waterman, founder of East Flatbush Village, Inc., said her organization has done “a lot in our community to build the relationships with the community and NYPD,” adding that “incidents like this set us back”.
“There needs to be a more proactive approach when it comes to mental health. We need more funding to go into training NYPD to deal with mental health and, or, align an agency with NYPD to respond to 911 calls that involving an emotional disturb person,” she said.
Police said Jeune was shot after he advanced on the officers with “a large carving knife” in the apartment, after two shocks from a stun gun failed to subdue him.
“This incident unraveled in seconds,” said Terence A. Monahan, chief of patrol, warning, however, that the information was preliminary and that the NYPD’s initial account was “subject to change”, as the probe continued.