EAST FLATBUSH — In the wake of the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill man in East Flatbush, family members, local pastors and politicians called for an overhaul Tuesday of how the NYPD responds to emotionally disturbed individuals.
Gathered outside the building where a knife-wielding Dwayne Jeune, 32, was shot and killed Monday by police after his mother called 911, Councilman Jumaane Williams said the city and state need to take steps so that people with mentally ill loved ones don’t have to fear calling emergency services.
“We cannot keep having people who simply need help keep ending up dead,” Williams said at a press conference outside the Jeune family’s building at 1370 New York Ave. Tuesday afternoon. “My office is demanding that within 60 days, a task force be not only formed, but will have completed a top-to-bottom investigation of what the protocol is with emotionally disturbed people and what changes will be made.”
Williams said the shooting was similar to the death of Deborah Danner, a mentally ill woman who fatally shot by NYPD sergeant Hugh Barry in October 2016. Police were called to her Castle Hill apartment by a neighbor complaining she was acting irrationally. Barry was charged with second-degree murder in May, and his case is pending.
Jeune died Monday in his apartment in the Flatbush Gardens apartment complex, after police responded to a 911 call from Jeune’s mother, who told a 911 operator that her son was non-violent, the NYPD said.
When officers arrived, police said that Jeune charged at them with a knife, forcing one office to fire a Taser that failed to stop the man. Officer Miguel Gonzalez then fired at him five times, fatally wounding him and sending at least one bullet through the wall into an adjoining apartment.
Dulcina Jeune, center, the mother of Dwayne Jeune, prays Tuesday with Councilman Jumaane Williams and others outside her apartment building in East Flatbush. (DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz)
Gonzalez had previously shot another knife-wielding, emotionally disturbed man in East Flatbush in October, 2016, police said. But despite the earlier shooting, in which the man was wounded, Gonzalez was the only officer among the four responding to Jeune’s home Monday who had not been trained in crisis intervention, police said.
Speaking for the family, Williams declined to say whether Jeune’s mother, Dulcina Jeune, had offered testimony differing from the police account.
But in a brief statement to reporters, Jeune’s father, Vibert Jeune, blasted the NYPD for its use of deadly force and alluded to “lies” from authorities.
“That officer has done bad things before, and to send him back to calm a situation — no he didn’t calm the situation. He made it worse,” Vibert Jeune said. “My son was not a bad person. He had his problems. You call upon those who believe would help you, but all they do is to kill.
“We didn’t get help at all. Lies! Lies, lies,” he added, without elaborating.
As of December, just 13 percent — or 4,700 officers — of NYPD police had been trained in deescalating conflicts like Monday's shooting, according to a January report from the Department of Investigation.
There is also no system in place to direct those officers who do have training to situations in which a 911 call has been made about an emotionally disturbed person, the report found.
At a press conference Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neil said the investigation into the shooting was ongoing. But that in the case of the earlier shooting involving Officer Gonzalez, investigators believed he had been justified in using deadly force.
"We see that shooting as within guidelines," O'Neill said Tuesday.