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Untangle this police shooting: Why did Win Rozario die?

Untangle this police shooting
Family handout
Win Rozario
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The police response to a 911 call by a mentally distressed 19-year-old Queens man ended in Win Rozario being shot and killed by cops, after he is said to have lunged at officers with scissors. The episode, which bears a resemblance to the 2016 killing of Deborah Danner and the 2019 killing of Kawaski Trawick, raises questions about whether police and all of us have learned the necessary lessons from those tragedies.

Rosario called the emergency number Wednesday in the throes of a mental crisis.

“As the officers get here, they go up to the second-floor apartment and the situation becomes quite hectic, chaotic and dangerous right away,” said the NYPD’s chief of patrol, John Chell, explaining that, as cops sought to take Rozario into custody to deliver him to psychological treatment, he pulled scissors out of a wardrobe and charged them. 

Cops used Tasers on Rozario first, at which point, says the NYPD, Rozario’s mother knocked out the prongs, and he picked up the scissors again and ran back toward the officers, triggering the shots that killed him.

The account is disputed by Rozario’s family, which witnessed the events; his younger brother and mother say no one removed the prongs.

The first thing that needs to happen: The NYPD must release relevant body-worn camera footage, redacted where necessary, to let the public see what actually unfolded. The existence of dueling narratives sows distrust; video and audio will reveal what transpired with far more clarity.

It was in 2021 that then-Commissioner Dermot Shea . The department must comply with that rule here, ideally releasing footage sooner than that.

A second puzzle piece enabling full understanding of what happened is the 911 call. What did Rozario say, and how did that inform the cops’ posture as they arrived?

Depending on the tone and language of that call, police may well have been the wrong professionals to send, at least in an ideal world where options are available. Unfortunately, they’re not. Almost three years ago, an alternative response model called B-HEARD — sending social workers and emergency medics to precisely this type of call — launched in pilot form, throughout the city. Last year, Mayor Adams , but that has yet to happen. 

Rozario was shot in the 102nd Precinct, where B-HEARD has no presence. But notably, even where it’s operating, it’s slow going: Early this year, an analysis of 2023 data in areas where the program is in place .

There are times when people in a mental health crisis pose an active danger to themselves or others, and it makes sense to send cops. But in many other cases, cries for help should not be answered by men with guns.

Police are trained to deescalate situations rather than prompting tense standoffs. A promise to expand training was made in 2015; as of late 2022, the New York Times “many of the city’s 36,000 uniformed officers have still not gone through the training program.”

Did these officers try to deescalate? Let us soon find out.

 

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