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NYPD Officers Shoot A Man 11 Times After He Approaches Them With A Knife

Police officers shot a 21-year-old man on Roosevelt Island at least 11 times last month after he approached them with a knife in a scene that lasted just a few seconds, according to body-worn camera footage released Friday.

The fatal shooting came after officers responded to 911 calls of a man threatening his family with a knife at their apartment building in an apparent mental health crisis.

The footage, which was released by the state Attorney General’s office , shows the perspectives of four NYPD officers at the scene: Three who entered the building’s elevator — one with a riot shield — around 11:30 p.m. on August 4, while another remained in the lobby with a Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department officer.

Before the elevator door closed, the man — who police have not named — ran up and lunged with a knife at the Roosevelt Island officer, according to the footage. His face is blurred in the videos.

The videos show the man then turned to the three police officers in the elevator, identified as Daniel Mehr, Annie Virella-Abreu and Daniel Mazza. Virella-Abreu shot at the man with a taser, the videos show.

Within a second, as the man took another step forward, the footage shows Mehr unleashed a flurry of gunshots while Mazza fired at least once.

Virella-Abreu also drew her gun after firing her taser, but it’s unclear from the footage whether she actually fired.

Just eight seconds passed between the man first lunging with the knife and laying flat on the ground after being shot, according to the videos.

The videos show he shakily raised his right hand, still holding the knife, while on the ground. Mehr moved toward him with a raised gun. “Drop the knife!” he yells.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on,” Virella-Abreu said as she pushed Mehr’s cocked arm down.

The man was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 12:28 a.m., police said.

NYPD Assistant Chief Christine Bastedenbeck of Patrol for Borough Queens North said at a press conference last month one of the man’s family members told 911 dispatchers he was “off his medication and under the influence of marijuana.”

An NYPD spokesperson said officers are trained on how to manage people experiencing mental health crises, and said a “significant portion” of the department’s members have received crisis intervention training. Recruits at the NYPD Academy are taught about mental illness and proper communication, the spokesperson said.

The Attorney General’s office, which is legally required to assess all police killings, has been investigating the incident. Mehr, Virella-Abreu and Mazza joined the department relatively recently, between 2018 and 2020.

Police records show Mehr was trained in what the NYPD calls “responding to people in crisis,” which includes a video series and two audio modules.

Virella-Abreu received the same crisis response training as Mehr, plus two extra sessions including one about “sending the right signals.”

The incident followed a string of police shootings in recent years. Raul de la Cruz was shot outside his dad’s Bronx apartment building in March during a schizophrenic episode in which he was holding a knife. Kawaski Trawick , another Bronx man, was fatally shot inside his apartment while holding a butter knife and stick in 2018. Saheed Vassell was unarmed, shot and killed in Brooklyn in 2018.

The city has struggled to respond to mental health emergencies where someone has a weapon without using force.

The city has in some cases sent mobile crisis teams of nurses, social workers and psychiatrists to respond to mental health crises. New Yorkers living with mental illness have also pushed to expand the budget and staff for 988 – a crisis hotline – to replace 911 as the city’s default system for reporting mental health emergencies.

But when someone in crisis has a knife, authorities say those teams aren’t equipped to respond alone. Advocacy groups and police officers have agreed that the NYPD doesn’t sufficiently prepare officers to respond to mental health emergencies. Fountain House has pushed the NYPD to improve training for officers, with an emphasis on de-escalation tactics when responding to mental health crises.

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