The State College Borough Council meeting on Sept. 9 began on an emotion-filled note when the parents of the late Osaze Osagie delivered statements on their son's death and the subsequent investigation.
Osagie's mother, Iyunolu Osagie, began by thanking those who helped and reached out to her and her husband Sylvester since their son's death. She also thanked the council for giving them a platform to speak. Iyunolu then began to discuss District Attorney Bernie Cantorna's report and the internal investigation conducted by the State College Police Department on the case.
“Based on the very findings in the two reports, I find it hard to believe that we’re left with the conclusions arrived at, where police officers are totally exculpated of any wrongdoing," she said.
In March, 29-year-old Osagie was shot and killed by a State College Police officer after Osagie ran at three officers with a knife while the officers were serving a mental health warrant. Osagie was diagnosed with autism, anxiety and schizophrenia, and had been exhibiting erratic behavior for weeks, threatening to harm himself and others.
Both an investigation conducted by the district attorney and an internal investigation conducted by the State College Police found the officers involved in the shooting not at fault.
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However, Iyunolu said she believes the process the officers enacted to serve the mental health warrant was flawed, considering the small apartment the officers were in and their execution.
“[I urge] the police to implement more creative tactics that lessen their reliance on the use of lethal force," she said. "We have supported police in the past in many ways. We have friends in the police force. We continue to value police lives and respect the difficult work they do. But we also hope they will value the lives they are hired to protect."
She added that actions must be "boldly addressed, reexamined and accounted for" when incidents like Osagie's death occur.
"Police should walk hand-in-hand with a community to build trust by being transparent — a fact glaringly missing in the investigation," Iyunolu said.
Osagie's death sparked a strong response in the Penn State and State College communities, as many believe his death was caused by racial and mental health-related biases. Since Osagie died, several protests have been organized and the 3/20 Coalition was formed to seek justice and reform.
Numerous people, many from the 3/20 Coalition, attended Monday's meeting to show support for Osagie and his parents.
After Iyunolu spoke, Sylvester Osagie gave his statement. He first commended the council for addressing the shortcomings in law enforcement.
He said his son’s death had “a huge impact on me and my family that goes way beyond the loss of a son."
"It has threatened to destroy my entire family," Sylvester said. "How to ensure that my family heals from this is my biggest challenge. For the child you love to go through life with severe disability...for that child to die under the circumstances in which Osaze died is a parent’s biggest nightmare.”
Sylvester added he wants to know why he was not notified when Osagie, who had been missing before his death, was found by police, who then served the warrant.
“If I had come 20 minutes earlier, who knows, the boy probably would have been alive today," he said.
He hopes that his son is the last person to die in such circumstances.
After the Osagies spoke, the meeting moved on to declare September as Hispanic Heritage Month and the week of Sept. 13 to 22 as "Welcoming Week," a week that focuses on making sure people from all backgrounds feel welcome in State College.
After, councilman Jesse Barlow presented "A Resolution Condemning Racist and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric, Gun Violence and Demanding Reasonable Firearm Regulations."
The resolution demanded action on white supremacist violence and condemned Islamophobic, anti-semitic, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic rhetoric and action.
“We continue to debate, and we can continue to debate over the nuance and style of wording, but in the meantime, the shootings and the hate continue," Barlow said. "Do something. Thoughts and prayers are comforting, but prayer isn’t enough.”
Councilwoman Catherine Dauler attempted to amend the resolution. She said she aimed to make the resolution more clear and concise, omitting the part about racism, xenophobia and white supremacist violence.
Councilwoman Theresa Lafer seconded the amendment, stating that the resolution should focus more on the banning of assault rifles. She also called for more background checks.
The council voted to amend the resolution, but then councilman Dan Murphy proposed to amend the resolution again to include the condemnation of white supremacy.
The resolution passed on a unanimous vote, demonstrating a local step to combat gun violence in the United States.
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