The New Jersey Attorney General tonight released a troubling 33-minute video of the moments leading up to and including the police shooting of 52-year-old Andrew Washington. The video is unlikely to quell calls for legal action against the officers involved and for changes to the way Jersey City responds to mental health emergencies.
The principal video, captured by the body cam of Officer Stephen Gigante of the department’s elite Emergency Services Unit, records Gigante’s attempts to communicate and reason with Washington over approximately 30 minutes.
Neighbors, concerned that Washington was experiencing a mental health crisis, had called Jersey City Medical Center which, in turn, called for help from the police.
A neighbor tells Gigante “now he’s locked himself in the apartment.”
The officer asks “is he seeing ghosts again still?’
The neighbor responds “We don’t know…he won’t talk to us anymore.”
Gigante ascends the stairs to Washington’s apartment. “Hey Andrew, it’s the Jersey City police bro, we’re here to help you and make sure you’re good…we don’t want to bother you.”
Washington yells back through the door, “if you don’t want to stop bothering me or disrespecting me, stop treating me like a mother f***king slave driver…get the f***k off slave driver.”
At one point Washington chants rythmically, “you’ve got to give a fair chance for a fight.”
Washington reportedly suffered from both bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.
Officers can be heard discussing getting a Taser from the behind the seat of a police car.
It appears the the police have unlocked Washington’s door and attached a rope to it to keep it closed.
Gigante continues. “Hey Andrew, Can you come to the door? Andrew will you come to the door and talk to me, my name’s Stephen…all we want to do is make sure that you’re good…it sounds like you’re having a bad day in there.”
One officer can be heard asking another, “Anybody’s that’s in there with him?”
The other responds, “Uh, uh. solo.”
During the incident, Washington can be heard coughing.
Gigante and his partner, Officer Felix DeJesus, both appear to be equipped with some protective body armor. DeJesus carries a shield. At one point, Gigante leaves to get helmets from his vehicle. He puts gloves on and returns.
At approximately 3:28 p.m., a half-hour after ESU’s arrival, Gigante climbs onto the landing next to Washington’s door. He appears to be armed with a Taser. He stands to the side. Another officer, possible DeJesus, kicks open the door.
Washington, shirtless, runs towards them with what appears to be a knife. Several officers yell “knife!” Shots ring out and Washington falls to the floor.
Washington was taken to Jersey City Medical center where he died approximately an hour later.
On Wednesday, friends, family and activists held a “Justice for Drew March and Rally” ending on the steps of city hall.
“The officers who killed him must be held accountable for his death. Changes must be made to policing in Jersey City so that this tragedy does not happen again,” said Lawrence Hamm, Chairman of People’s Organization For Progress.
Said Washington’s aunt, Doris Tony Ervin of the police response, “We called for help,” she says. “We didn’t call and say ‘There’s a criminal lurking in our neighborhood.’”
Mayor Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea have called the shooting justified.
“After an hour…when our supervisors were afraid that somebody may be in medical distress in the apartment they opened the door…they never entered…he then immediately rushed out” said Shea.
According to the Attorney General, the investigation is ongoing.