Parents of Osaze Osagie

Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie stand together as their attorneys speak at a press conference to announce their intent to sue the State College Police Department and the officers involved in the death of their son, Osaze.

At a press conference on Thursday, Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie were joined by their legal team to announce the next steps they will take in regards to the death of their son, Osaze Osagie.

On Sept. 19, the day of the conference, the Osagie family filed a notice of claim that indicates their intent to sue the State College Police Department for the “wrongful death of Osaze Osagie,” and the officers involved in the fatal shooting.

The family also intends to conduct an independent investigation into Osagie's death.

In March, Osaze, who had a history of autism and schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a State College Police officer after officers arrived at his apartment to serve a mental health warrant.

Osaze reportedly ran at the officers with a knife when they arrived at his apartment. After an unsuccessful attempt to tase Osagie, an officer fatally shot him.

Sylvester had called the department asking that Osaze be checked up on, as he had sent his father text messages alluding to suicide, and was not able to be located.

“The mental health processes in place failed our son. The police procedures also failed our son. And the officers who responded to our son’s apartment failed him as well,” Sylvester said in a press release provided at the press conference. “We are bringing this case to make sure Osaze is the last person to die under such circumstances.”

Andre Celli, one of the attorneys representing the Osagie family, said they do not “reject” the findings of the State College Police Department’s internal investigation and the district attorney's investigation, but said their findings were “incomplete at best.”

Both investigations found the officers involved to be not at fault for Osagie’s death.

“I think the reports provided snapshot, when what we have to see is the whole movie,” Celli said.

According to the notice of claim that was filed, “Osaze died because of a systematic breakdown in the operation of the SCPD and their failure to follow basic safety procedures for interacting with mentally ill people.”

Osagie’s death sparked anger and frustration from many members of the Penn State and State College communities. Numerous protests and dialogues have occurred since Osagie died, and residents founded the 3/20 Coalition  to pursue justice and reform for Osagie and the State College community.

Andy Hoover, communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania spoke, expressing condolences for the family and questioned the training procedures of the officers involved, such as covering the peep hole on Osaze's door while they waited for him to open it and arriving at the scene without a mental health specialist.

“Every year approximately 1,000 families experience the grief and trauma of a loved one being killed by police officers in the United States,” Hoover said. “And, according to the data collected by the ACLU, the percentage of people who are killed by the police who have mental health disabilities is at least 25 percent.”

The Osagie family was present at the press conference, but did not speak.

“Reform and change begins with getting to the truth,” Celli said. “And justice requires a willingness to hear the truth and to respond to an action. We expect action to occur as a result of this — policy changes, training, personal consequences if those are appropriate, compensation for the family and a genuine effort to heal this community and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”

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