Parents of Osaze Osagie: ‘Many Questions’ Remain Surrounding Circumstances Of Son’s Shooting Death
Iyunolu and Sylvester Osagie, parents of Osaze Osagie, addressed the State College Borough Council at its meeting Monday evening.
Osaze Osagie died last March when police officers serving a 302 mental health warrant shot him at his home on Old Boalsburg Road.
Osagie’s parents thanked the council and members of the community for recent efforts to examine mental health and racial equity issues but addressed several perceived shortcomings in the police response that ended with their son’s death.
The Osagies approached the podium in Council Chambers through a round of applause from the meeting’s attendees. Iyunolu Osagie spoke first, thanking Council for its recent decision to appropriate $200,000 to establish a mental health task force, a racial equity plan, and an external review of State College Police Department policies. She also thanked community members for their support, including donations to the Osaze Osagie Memorial Scholarship fund, speaking out in support of reviews of the situation, and organizing healing-focused activities.
“Solutions for this crisis are not just for us, but for the community as a whole,” Osagie said.
Osagie then moved to address several points of police procedure outlined in both the District Attorney and State College Police Department’s reports of the circumstances surrounding Osaze Osagie’s death. Iyunolu Osagie said that some claims in the report remained unclear and that she questioned why the officers involved were completely exculpated of wrongdoing.
“The outcome that emerged should never have been the case,” Lyun Osagie said as attendees nodded and applauded behind her.
Iyunolu Osagie questioned why the officers, who were reportedly briefed on the layout of the apartment and were familiar with their son’s condition, chose to execute the 302 warrant in a way that led to their close proximity encounter with Osaze Osagie. She also questioned the investigation’s conclusion surrounding implicit bias and said that she did not receive clear answers from the District Attorney’s office when she asked about that section of the report.
She urged police to develop “more creative tactics” that would allow them to avoid the use of lethal force, noted that her family has “supported police in the past in many ways,” and said that she hoped the police would “value the lives they are hired to protect.”
“Bottom line, if that was was the son of one of the police officers who was in distress, I don’t believe that any of the responding officers on the scene would have pulled the trigger and claimed to fear for his life,” Osagie said.
“The mental health processes in place failed my son,” she added. “The police procedures in place also failed my son.”
After thanking the community and Council again, Lyunolu Osagie left the podium as attendees applauded, and Sylvestre Osagie prepared to speak.
“It has threatened to destroy my entire family. How to ensure that my family heals from this is my biggest challenge,” Osagie said of his son’s death after thanking Council and the community for their efforts. “For a child you love to go through life with a severe disability is heart-wrenching. For that child to die under the circumstances in which Osaze died is a parent’s nightmare.”
“It is the word of the officers involved against that of a dead man,” he said.
Osagie was in State College and working with police to locate and assist his son the day he died. Osagie said that he initially hesitated to call the police when he suspected his son might be in danger because “Judging from similar encounters with the police around the country, such interactions sometimes portend tragic incidents.”
“Seeking help when in distress is not an act of criminality,” he said.
He questioned why he was not notified when police located his son, noting that law enforcement officials can ask people familiar with the person they are attempting to assist to help bring that person to safety.
“Hopefully Osaze will be the last person to die under such circumstances,” he said.
Council later passed an amended resolution condemning racist and xenophobic political rhetoric, gun violence, and demanding reasonable firearm regulations after an extensive conversation.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine also provided an update on the Borough’s Racial equity initiative and the formation of its mental health task force. He said that the task force’s membership would be finalized within the next week and that it would hold its first meeting September 26. Fountaine also said that he and State College Police Chief John Gardner will meet with members of the community to discuss the department’s internal review of Osagie’s death in Council Chambers on September 18.
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