ACLU-PA Questions Osagie Investigation’s Methods And Conclusions
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania issued a statement shortly after Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna announced the officers involved in the death of Osaze Osagie wouldn’t face any charges. ACLU of Pennsylvania executive director Reggie Shuford raised multiple concerns relating to racial and mental health issues in the statement.
Osagie died of multiple gunshot wounds on March 20 after police entered his apartment while serving a mental health warrant.
Shuford pointed out that the information in the report was based solely on accounts given by the involved officers and that no independent witnesses or video evidence were used in the report. He then referred to two recent occasions where police officers lied about the incidents leading to the deaths of black victims.
“Without full transparency and incontrovertible evidence that confirms an officer’s story, it is completely reasonable for people in the community to be skeptical about the stories told by law enforcement,” he said.
Shuford also criticized Cantorna’s decision not to release the names of the officers involved in Osazie’s death. He demanded that as public employees supported by taxpayer dollars, police officers be held accountable to their communities.
“By withholding this information from the community, District Attorney Cantorna is allowing police to kill with impunity and anonymity,” he said.
The statement also questioned Cantorna’s assertion that mental health warrants should be served more often.
“The lack of a mental health professional on site [during Osazie’s warrant] is unconscionable.” Shuford said. “People living with mental health disabilities do not need more interactions with police. The tragic death of Osaze Osagie exemplifies why.”
You can read Shuford’s full statement below:
“We recognize that the district attorney has a difficult job to do and can only work with the evidence he has. We also recognize that, when a family asks for officers to check on their son out of fear for his well-being, as Osaze’s family did, they do not expect that he’ll end up dead. They reasonably expect better from officers who pledge to protect and serve their community.
“The information shared today by the district attorney is based on the officers’ explanation of the incident. There are no independent witnesses, and there is no video evidence. We learned this week that a police officer lied about the incident that led to the death of Oscar Grant in California in 2009 and that another officer lied about the incident that led to the death of Sandra Bland in Texas in 2015. Without full transparency and incontrovertible evidence that confirms an officer’s story, it is completely reasonable for people in the community to be skeptical about the stories told by law enforcement.
“The DA also made a unilateral decision to withhold the name of the officer who fired the fatal shot. Police officers are public employees, supported by taxpayer dollars and accountable to the public. By withholding this information from the community, District Attorney Cantorna is allowing police to kill with impunity and anonymity.
“The State College Police Department knew that Osaze might be in crisis when they served this warrant. The lack of a mental health professional on site is unconscionable. And the district attorney’s recommendation to loosen the standards for obtaining mental health warrants requires more scrutiny. People living with mental health disabilities do not need more interactions with police. The tragic death of Osaze Osagie exemplifies why.”
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