Borough Leaders Expect ‘Fair And Independent’ Investigation Into Police Shooting Death Of State College Man
Several State College leaders on Thursday called the death of a borough man who was shot by a police officer “tragic” and expressed their expectation that Pennsylvania State Police will conduct a “fair and independent” investigation.
Borough police arrived at Marvin Gardens apartments on Old Boalsburg Road at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday looking for 29-year-old Osaze Osagie to serve him with a mental health warrant, which allows law enforcement to take into custody a person who exhibits signs that he is likely to harm himself or others.
According to a state police search warrant affidavit, Osagie’s father contacted State College police because he was concerned about his son’s recent erratic behavior and was concerned he might be off his medication. He also showed police text messages that indicated Osagie threatened to harm himself and others, according to the search warrant.
When police arrived at his apartment, Osagie allegedly confronted officers with a knife and ignored commands to drop it. Osagie allegedly then came after the officers, and one officer shot and killed him. According to the search warrant state police seized four casings and a taser from the scene.
The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation by state police, who were immediately called to the scene to take over the investigation.
District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said Thursday that the Pennsylvania State Police Troop G Major Crimes Unit is now leading the investigation, that the scene of the shooting was processed by forensic services and that all evidence is being sent to a state police crime lab.
“I want to assure the public that there will be a thorough and complete investigation into this matter,” Cantorna said. “I want to assure the community, families and law enforcement that once that investigation is complete that we will report back fully as to the conclusions that we have reached.”
Cantorna’s office ultimately will make the decision if any charges should be filed against the officers, and he said that he and state police would not be commenting further until the investigation has been completed.
“The matter will be investigated no different than any other death case that’s occurred in Centre County,” Cantorna said. “It will not be until that process is complete that we can reach conclusions on what occurred, the use of force and the appropriateness of that use of force,” he said.
The Centre County Coroner’s Office was scheduled to conduct an autopsy on Osagie on Thursday night.
Borough Councilman Dan Murphy wrote on Twitter Thursday morning that he is “heartbroken and angry” about Osagie’s death.
“I’m holding his family close in my thoughts and my heart. Words of comfort/protection for my neighbors of color and those struggling [with] their mental health continue to fail me.
“As a community member I am going through these moment-by-moment feelings beside you. As a community leader I’m working to get answers. I spoke [with] staff yesterday. I’ve asked for a leadership briefing. I’ll continue to advocate for transparency and information sharing.”
Council President Evan Myers said Osagie’s death was “tragic” and that he believes turning the investigation over to state police was appropriate.
“Any situation like this is extremely tragic and certainly my heart goes out to [Osagie] and his family,” Myers said. “I also understand the difficulties of police work. As far as this situation, I don’t know what happened. It was immediately turned over to the state police for a fair and independent investigation and I think that was a wise decision.”
In an email, Mayor Don Hahn echoed Myers’ remarks.
“This is a tragic event. My heart goes out to everyone involved,” Hahn said. “Everyone involved in this incident needs to be treated with dignity and respect, and they deserve the benefit of thoughtful conclusions based upon trustworthy facts.
“I commend the decision to refer this matter to an outside, independent investigation, and I look forward to the results.”
At a media briefing on Wednesday night, Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said the borough is committed to an “honest and independent” investigation.
“This is indeed a sad and tragic day in State College. Our heartfelt sympathies are with the victim’s family and also we continue to have the officers and their families in our thoughts and prayers,” Fountaine said. “As we have done in the past, State College Borough is committed to an independent and transparent and open investigation of this incident involving State College police officers. Our goal and commitment to the community is to ensure we have an open, honest and independent investigation to thoroughly understand what did transpire today.”
Police Chief John Gardner said it was “with a heavy heart” that he delivered the news of the shooting death and alluded to another deadly shooting in State College this year, when a Benner Township man shot and killed three people and injured another before taking his own life.
“As you know this community has been rocked the past six weeks by incidents that are unfathomable for this community and for that my heart goes out to all those victims,” Gardner said.
A candlelight vigil for Osagie, organized by the Penn State Student Black Caucus and several other organizations, was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Allen Street Gates.
“He was a 29 year old black man shot to death by State College Police,” Facebook post for the vigil stated. “They were at his residence for a wellness check. He did not deserve to die. His life mattered. #BlackLivesMatter. Please come to show your support and grieve a life taken far too early.”
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