ACLU-PA Statement on District Attorney’s Announcement in Officer-Involved Shooting Death of Osaze Osagie

May 08, 2019
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HARRISBURG - Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna announced today that the State College police officer who shot and killed Osaze Osagie will not be charged with criminal wrongdoing. Osagie, a 29-year-old African-American man, was killed in his home in March when officers were serving a mental health warrant.

After the DA’s announcement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a statement in response. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“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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