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Osagie Family Files Federal Lawsuit Citing State College Police’s ‘Systematic Failings’

The family of a State College man shot and killed by a borough police officer in March 2019 filed a 39-page federal lawsuit Monday accusing law enforcement of “systematic failings.”

The suit, filed by Sylvester and Iyun Osagie in the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, seeks unspecified monetary damages. The lawsuit named the borough and 10 police officers as defendants.

The Osagies specifically alleged police used excessive force, assault, and battery, all of which violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Osagie, 29, was diagnosed with Asberger syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia, among other mental disorders, and was hospitalized at least six times, according to court documents.

The suit also cited the borough’s improper crisis intervention training as a critical failure that puts those with mental illness in harm’s way.

“Osaze’s death is not the story of misconduct by a single ‘bad apple,’” the family’s attorney wrote in a statement. “It is the story of years of systematic failings by the…State College Police Department to meaningfully implement and enforce common-sense policies and practices to protect the rights of people with mental health disabilities during encounters with police.”

The Osagie family’s attorneys asserted the borough failed to address policies and practices it allegedly knew could deny rights to individuals dealing with police while in a mental health crisis.

“The Osagie family files this case today with deep resolve, but also with a heavy heart. They are determined to seek justice for their beloved son, which includes holding the borough and SCPD accountable for their systemic failings in creating and maintaining a broken policing system that caused his untimely death,” the Osagie family’s attorneys said in a statement. “But they have a heavy heart because, as longtime community residents, they are deeply disappointed that their extraordinary efforts to resolve these issues without resort to litigation have been rejected.”

On March 20, 2019, three State College police officers arrived at Osagie’s apartment on Old Boalsburg Road and attempted to serve a mental health warrant. The Osagie family’s attorneys asserted the officers didn’t have a plan to help Osagie or minimize harm.

When Osagie answered the door with a knife in hand, the officers allegedly asked him to drop it. According to Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna’s 228-page report, Osagie told officers to shoot him and allegedly ran at them.

Documents said one officer deployed a taser without effect, while another shot Osagie three times. Coroners found he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Last year, Cantorna cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, while an internal investigation found those involved followed department policies.

Since Osagie’s death, community members have protested and demonstrated to seek justice for his family. A local advocacy group, the 3/20 Coalition, formed to promote racial justice and fight police brutality locally.

Additionally, Osagie’s death prompted a comprehensive review of Centre County’s mental health system and policies.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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