PELHAM BAY — An emotionally disturbed man threatening police with a glass bottle died after an NYPD sergeant shocked him with a Taser on Wednesday night, police said.
Ariel Galarza, 49, was acting violently within his home at 1840 Mayflower Ave., near St. Theresa Avenue, about 5:35 p.m., NYPD officials said.
Derrick Reno, 28, who lives at the Mayflower Avenue address, saw a woman burst out the front door.
"She said he was screaming and said he had a knife," Reno said. "She was scared."
"She said he was yelling and slamming things since 2 p.m."
When three uniformed officers and a sergeant, Williams Morris, confronted the man, he threatened them with a glass bottle, police union officials said.
Morris, a 13-year veteran with no disciplinary history, shocked Galarza with his Taser and the officers took him into custody, police said.
Sources said that while the officers were trying to handcuff the man, he revived and began to resist, which prompted the sergeant to shock him again with the Taser.
Galarza looked like he then had a heart attack so police tried to resuscitate him with CPR, before he was put onto a stretcher, police said.
"They pulled him out on a stretcher with an oxygen mask around his mouth. He looked purplish around his eyes. He wasn't moving. It was terrible," Reno added.
"I heard one cop on the phone saying he got Tased," said Reno. "They kept saying he was okay and they were working on him."
Galarza was pronounced dead at Einstein Hospital about two hours later, police said.
His sister who lives in Florida, Jeanette Galarza, 45, was devastated by Galarza's death.
"He was my rock. He was the best brother you could imagine. He didn't deserve this," the sister said through tears.
"He left a mark on everyone's life. He sacrificed for everyone. He wanted to make everyone's life better," she added.
Galarza was remembered as calm and a devoted fan of the Yankees, Giants and Knicks.
"He was the coolest guy on the block. He never had problems with anybody. We'd hang out, watch TV, watch some sports. I'd drink some beers, but he didn't drink. This is just terrible," said neighbor Kelvin Diaz, 22.
Others called him "a regular guy" who worked hard.
"He was quiet. He'd go to the store and come back. I'd hang out with him all the time. We'd talk about sports, movies. He'd just drink water," said neighbor Jose Hernandez, 25, who'd known Galarza for about 3 years.
Galarza had told Hernandez that should either of them ever be involved in a confrontation with police, they should never try to struggle.
"It's crazy," said Hernandez. "He always told me if I had a confrontation with the police to comply."
"He'd say, 'If that was me I'd sit there, put my hands up, and comply.'" added Hernandez. "It makes it even harder. I can't believe this."
Galarza's sister was also baffled by the deadly encounter, arguing that her brother had never been violent and the sergeant should've shown more restraint.
"The story isn't making sense to me," she said.
"I'm still in shock. I can't understand how this happened and in his own house. This is ridiculous. [The sergeant] should know better," the sister added.
The NYPD is investigating the man's death, police said.
The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman dispatched staff to review the incident as well to determine if it meets the criteria for a full state-level investigation, said spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeant's Benevolent Association, said Morris was justified in using his Taser because he was being threatened.
"There's one common denominator here. That's the threat to a police officer's safety. We see this across the country on a daily basis. To the public, follow the direction of the police officers," Mullins said.
The deadly police encounter comes on the heels of a similar one in which a sergeant, Hugh Barry, fatally shot a bat-wielding woman, Deborah Danner.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said his department had "failed" Danner.
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