More details on family and police reaction to SC officer involved shooting

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Family of man killed in officer involved shooting hires attorney's... looking to advocate for change in law enforcement's approach to mental health

State College, Pa- The family of the man killed by police in his apartment March, 20 has released details about his mental health condition.

Osaze Osagie’s family writes that he was a student at Penn State, but had to withdraw due to mental health challenges. Osagie was diagnosed with autism and wrestled with his mental health over the last 10 years.

Pennsylvania State Police took two prescription pill bottles from Osagie’s kitchen after he was shot, but at the moment, no information was released on what medication he was prescribed.

Wednesday, WTAJ learned that the Osagie’s parents have hired two local attorneys as they’re looking to advocate for changes in law enforcement policy related to mental health. At the moment they haven’t said exactly what changes they’re looking to make…

But, WTAJ has learned other information related to Osagie’s family, and the officer involved shooting. The new details are listed below:

-Osagie’s father works as a professor in Labor and Employment Relations at Penn State (University Park) and has actually trained officers in the past.

-According to State College Borough Police Chief John Gardner, the Borough used to have mental health professionals go out on calls for cases like Osagie’s. But, Gardner says the department got away from the practice.

-Chief Gardner says officers had interacted with Osagie in the past, but never in a violent situation.

-It’s now reported that all three officers (not just the one who did the shooting) are on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna says the investigation, conducted through his office with State Police, will be thorough and independent.

Cantorna met with Anthony Shubin and Kathleen Yurchak (the lawyers recently hired by the Osagie family) on Wednesday to discuss the role that mental health and race may have played in the shooting. Yurchak and Shubin claim that Osagie was experiencing “medication-related mental health symptoms.”

In a statement, Osagie’s father Sylvester said, “as the father of an autistic, African American son and as an academic, I am acutely aware of the staggering number of tragic police encounters with those experiencing mental health issues and persons of color…  the decision to ask the police for help is difficult and fraught with peril.”

Osagie’s mother, Lyunolu, is a faculty member at Oregon State University. She said the family had positive interactions with former SC Police Chief Tom King in the past, is still looking for answers.

“What happened to our son is even more difficult to fathom given how accepting the community has been of our family and Osaze, in particular, since we moved to State College in 1992,” she said in a statement.

Some in the community have questioned the training SC officers received.

Currently, borough officials have not created a complete list of relevant officer trainings, but it’s known that all Centre County police departments have attended a 49-hour crisis intervention training, implicit bias training and social injustice trainings.

Others in the community are also questioning if race played any role in the shooting.

“You can’t associate every incident just because it has a white versus a black person with every type of hateful incident in America,” said State Police Sgt. William Slaton, a commander within PA Police’s Equality and Inclusion Office.

“Race is always going to be on the table. Even if this wasn’t about race, you can’t get away with not addressing it,” Chief Gardner said Monday. “We don’t put up with nonsense … There’s no free passes for police. If there’s wrongdoing, it’s going to be dealt with.”

There’s no timeline given as to when a determination will be made in this case.

Osagie’s family is looking to establish a scholarship at PSU in his honor. His death marks the first fatal shooting by SC Police in the department’s 103 year history.

Osagie’s funeral is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. this Saturday at the State College Alliance Church.

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