Body camera footage released in fatal police shooting of anti-violence activist Najee Seabrooks
Written by ABC Audio ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on March 17, 2023
(NEW YORK) — Hours of body camera footage was released Thursday in the fatal police shooting of Najee Seabrooks, a New Jersey anti-violence activist who called 911 during an apparent mental health crisis.
Seabrooks, 31, of Paterson, was shot five hours after police responded to his home on March 3, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which released redacted footage and 911 calls made by Seabrooks amid its investigation into the deadly incident.
The fatal shooting of Seabrooks, who worked for the anti-violence organization Paterson Healing Collective, has sparked protests and calls for reform.
According to the state attorney general’s office, officers from the Paterson Police Department responded to Seabrooks’ apartment around 7:43 a.m. “in response to a 911 call from an individual in distress” and found him locked inside a bathroom.
Members of Seabrooks’ family told officers he had been “hallucinating and behaving erratically” and may have been “experiencing a bad reaction to something he had smoked,” the state attorney general’s office said. In 911 calls, Seabrooks can be heard asking for someone to help escort him to his car because he’s received threats.
Seabrooks told police that “people are trying to kill me, I need an escort,” though the officers at the scene determined there were no threats, the attorney general’s office said.
Seabrooks told officers he had two knives and a gun and at one point can be heard saying “that he was going to die in the bathroom and take one of the officers with him,” the attorney general’s office said.
Throughout the incident, additional officers, crisis negotiators, members of the department’s emergency response team and emergency medical services responded to the apartment as police and family members attempted to get Seabrooks to come out of the bathroom to receive help, authorities said.
“At various times during the encounter officers deployed approximately 15 less than lethal sponge-tipped projectiles some of which struck Mr. Seabrooks, but were not effective in subduing him,” the attorney general’s office said.
As armed officers stood outside the bathroom door, Seabrooks at one point remarked they were going to shoot him.
“Nobody’s going to shoot you,” an officer says.
The officers told him to “drop the knives” and to come out of the bathroom to get help.
At approximately 12:35 p.m., Seabrooks could be seen coming out of the bathroom while holding a knife in his hand. An officer can be heard yelling “drop it” right before two members of the Emergency Response Team — identified as Officer Anzore Tsay and Officer Jose Hernandez — opened fire, striking him.
Seabrooks was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead at 12:51 p.m., authorities said.
The investigation into Seabrooks’ death is ongoing. Once completed, it will be presented to a grand jury to determine if any officers involved should be charged, the attorney general’s office said.
Representatives of Seabrooks’ family reviewed the footage prior to its public release, according to the attorney general’s office.
In the wake of the fatal shooting, the Paterson Healing Collective had called for the release of body camera footage of the incident. It has also called for the officers involved in the shooting to be placed on administrative leave, and the creation of a non-carceral crisis response team and a civilian complaint review board that could have “investigatory and subpoena power.”
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.