The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office released audio and video footage from the Paterson Police Department (PPD) interaction with Najee Seabrooks before he was fatally shot on March 3.
Released after meeting with representatives of Seabrooks’ family on March 16, authorities offered a timeline for the event that started at 7:43 a.m. when the PPD responded to Mill Street apartment in response to a 911 call from an individual in distress (Editor’s Note: We are providing links to the videos of the standoff. We warn that this might not be suitable for all to view). The standoff in the apartment took place in a tight hallway, with officers and family attempting to have Seabrook give up his weapons and offering him help.
Video shows a chaotic ending, shots fired as police were pleading with Seabrook to drop his knives that can be seen holding in the video and meet with his mother. Seabrook can be partially seen exiting the bathroom with officers ordering him to drop the knife. Gunshots then ring out with no clear view of Seabrook’s actions before that fatal moment.
In their press statement, the Attorney General’s Office said officers encountered family members of Seabrooks who informed them that Najee, an anti violence activist in Paterson, was hallucinating and behaving erratically, believing he was experiencing a bad reaction to something he had smoked and that his actions were completely out of character.
Paterson Police Response
Police were informed that Seabrooks at some time since his arrival at home around at 2 a.m. grabbed some knives and locked himself inside the bathroom. Seabrooks can be heard telling the police that he had a gun and two knives.
On the scene were PPD crisis negotiators, the Emergency Response Team (ERT), and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. Videos show the first officers and EMS reporting to the scene, working with police and family members, urging Seabrooks to unlock the door and come out of the bathroom so they could get him help. A sergeant was brought to the scene and attempted to get Seabrooks to come out of the bathroom as well, explaining that he was not in any trouble and would be taken to the hospital to be cared for.
At approximately 10:15 a.m. a loud crash was heard from inside the bathroom and water began flooding the apartment. The Attorney General’s office said that Seabrooks was cutting himself with the knives and was bleeding. After not hearing from Seabrooks for a period of time, the officers attempted to break into the bathroom, but were unable to do so, as the door appeared to be barricaded.
Just after 10:30 a.m. and for the next 90 minutes, a PPD trained negotiator and family members spoke to Seabrooks in an attempt to get him to come out from inside the bathroom to get help. Additionally, a family member was brought to the apartment to speak to Seabrooks in an attempt to persuade Seabrooks to come out of the bathroom and get help.
Through the encounter, Seabrooks can be heard going back and forth with officers in expressing a willingness to cooperate with the police to be transported to the hospital to be examined to saying that he was going to die in the bathroom and take one of the officers with him.
Authorities continually speak to him that to put down the knives he was wielding, asking him to stop cutting himself, offer to have his family speak to him and talk to him about his young daughter.
During the encounter, authorities said less-than-lethal force was deployed by three officers, identified as Hector Mendez, Qiao Lin, and Mario Vdovjak. The officers deployed approximately 15 less than lethal sponge tipped projectiles some of which struck Seabrooks but were not effective in subduing him.
In the final moments, the Attorney General’s office said Seabrooks came out of the bathroom and lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand. That is when ERT Officers Anzore Tsay and Jose Hernandez discharged their weapons, striking Seabrooks five times. The video released shows the encounter from two officers body cameras, behind shields with their guns up.
Emergency medical personnel rendered first aid on the scene to Seabrooks before he was transported to St. Joseph’s Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased at 12:51 p.m.