By: Yuritza Arroyo
The Attorney General’s Office today released audio recordings of seven 911 calls and video footage from body-worn cameras related to a fatal police-involved shooting on March 3 in Paterson.
According to authorities, the decedent has been identified as Najee Seabrooks, 31, of Paterson.
Authorities say the fatal shooting remains under investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). Investigators met with representatives of Mr. Seabrooks’ family to review the recordings.
According to the investigation, on Friday, March 3, at approximately 7:43 a.m., the Paterson Police Department responded to Mill Street in Paterson in response to a 911 call from an individual in distress.
The individual was later identified as Mr. Seabrooks, who made additional 911 calls.
Police said when officers arrived, they encountered family members of Mr. Seabrooks.
They informed the officers that Mr. 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 Mr. Seabrooks, who had locked himself inside a bathroom in an apartment. Mr. Seabrooks told the officers, “People are trying to kill me; I need an escort.”
According to authorities, with the assistance of information provided by family members, officers concluded there were no threats to Mr. Seabrooks. The family said he might have been experiencing a bad reaction to something he had smoked and that his actions were entirely out of character.
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.
Throughout the morning, additional resources from the Paterson Police Department responded to the scene, including crisis negotiators and the Emergency Response Team (ERT), along with the Paterson Fire Department’s emergency medical services (EMS). Mr. Seabrooks told the police that he had two knives and a gun he referred to as a “pocket rocket.”
The police and family members pleaded with Mr. Seabrooks to unlock the door and come out of the bathroom so they could get him help.
According to the Police, Mr. Seabrooks requested that a police sergeant be called to the scene. A sergeant was brought to the scene and also attempted to get Mr. Seabrooks to come out of the bathroom, explaining that he was not in any trouble and would be taken to the hospital to be evaluated. During this period, Mr. Seabrooks repeated that he had a gun.
Police say at approximately 9:40 a.m., a trained negotiator from the department arrived on the scene.
For approximately one hour and thirty minutes, two police sergeants, EMS workers, family members, and trained negotiators spoke to Mr. Seabrooks to get him to come out from inside the bathroom to get help.
According to officials, a family member was brought to the apartment to speak to Mr. Seabrooks in an attempt to persuade Mr. Seabrooks to come out of the bathroom and get help. At points, Mr. Seabrooks would briefly open the door.
Officers explained to Mr. Seabrooks that his work “mentor” could not come into the apartment due to safety concerns, in light of the fact that Mr. Seabrooks had knives and claimed to have a gun.
However, officers told Mr. Seabrooks he could speak with the mentor on the phone, which he was, and he would be taken to that coworker and his family members as soon as he put the knives down and came out.
Authorities say at approximately 10:15 a.m., a loud crash was heard inside the bathroom, and water began flooding the apartment. Mr. Seabrooks was cutting himself with the knives and was bleeding.
At 10:26 a.m., when officers had not heard from Mr. Seabrooks for a period of time, the officers attempted to break into the bathroom but were unable to do so, as the door appeared to be barricaded.
While they were speaking with Mr. Seabrooks, officers observed knives in his hands, and Mr. Seabrooks told the officers he had a fully loaded gun and threatened to shoot people.
According to the Police, Mr. Seabrooks threw various items at officers and started a fire in the bathroom. Mr. Seabrooks threw an unknown liquid in the face of one of the officers, who was taken to the hospital, treated, and later released.
Police say during this time, Mr. Seabrooks vacillated from expressing a willingness to cooperate with the police and accept the help being offered to saying that he was going to die in the bathroom and take one of the officers with him. Officer 3 BWC videos are available here.
During the encounter, officers deployed approximately 15 less-than-lethal sponge-tipped projectiles, some of which struck Mr. Seabrooks but were ineffective in subduing him.
At approximately 12:35 p.m., Mr. Seabrooks exited the bathroom and lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand.
According to officials, two members of the ERT, Officer Anzore Tsay, and Officer Jose Hernandez, discharged their weapons, striking Mr. Seabrooks. When Mr. Seabrooks fell to the ground, officers removed the knife from his hand. Emergency medical personnel rendered first aid at the scene.
Mr. Seabrooks was transported to Saint Joseph's Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased at 12:51 p.m.
During the encounter, the less-than-lethal force was deployed by three officers, identified as Hector Mendez, Qiao Lin, and Mario Vdovjak.