Hundreds attend funeral of N.J. man fatally shot by police through apparent mental overall health crisis

They named him the “neighborhood hero and healer.”

Najee Seabrooks was “a pillar in the community” who constructed bridges involving quarreling youngsters, rival gang members and victims of gun violence in a city that has noticed its share just before his personal life was reduce quick at 31, loved ones and pals mentioned at a memorial Saturday.

Police shot and killed Seabrooks following 5 hours of tense negotiations as he was in the grips of an apparent mental overall health episode, harming himself with knives and calling 911 many instances.

Hundreds gathered at the Christian Fellowship Center in Paterson, a line snaking in rows as soft gospel played. Seabrooks lay in an open casket, wearing a black suit and a pair of black and white Vans sneakers, his preferred footwear.

“By the quantity of people today right here nowadays, we recognize that he was loved,” the Rev. Sarah Anthony mentioned.

Seabrooks’ function for the Paterson Healing Collective, a neighborhood nonprofit, drew him to the city’s most vulnerable people today, as properly as these most most likely to commit violence. It also connected him to these with influence, from neighborhood activists to members of the City Council and the head of a regional hospital, who mentioned his death need to spur reform.

The March three incident has renewed urgency in conversations more than how emergency responders deal with people today in the throes of a mental overall health crisis, such as what is the very best way for police to respond to such calls.

In an obituary, his loved ones recalled his positivity and “infectious smile.”

Born and raised in Paterson, Seabrooks was a championship basketball player for Eastside Higher College. He got an associate’s degree from Ventura College in California but returned residence to Paterson exactly where, following surviving a drive-by shooting, he started function as a “high-danger intervention specialist,” handling some of the nonprofit’s most difficult situations.

Outdoors of function, his tastes tended toward the easier pleasures. Video games and pizza. Coaching his tiny brother, Sutan, in basketball. Ice cream in the park with his four-year-old daughter, Sofia.

A man wearing a jacket emblazoned with a memorial portrait of Najee Seabrooks enters the funeral on Saturday.

“He loved her a lot more than something and would do all he could to make confident she was taken care of,” his loved ones wrote.

His mother, Melissa Carter, cried out when she viewed his physique a single final time, as roses have been placed inside her son’s casket.

“Why?” she screamed as she returned to her seat.

“This shouldn’t have occurred,” an individual else shouted.

His casket was pulled from the funeral residence in a glass carriage led by two white horses. The words “Justice for Najee” have been etched on the side.

Teddie Martinez was Seabrooks’ mentor at the Paterson Healing Collective, but mentioned it was he who discovered “so significantly about life” from the younger Seabrooks, even turning him into a convert for Vans sneakers.

“As lengthy as I have breath in me, Najee’s name will not go in vain,” he mentioned.

Martinez mentioned he was denied access to Seabrooks through the police standoff in spite of his personal function as a violence interventionist. His group has argued Seabrooks may possibly have survived the ordeal if he had gotten psychiatric care when he necessary it, and Martinez asked these assembled to “not drop the ball on this” and to continue to demand answers in his memory.

State Lawyer Common Matthew Platkin’s workplace is investigating Seabrooks’ killing as necessary by state law. The workplace on Thursday released hours of physique camera footage displaying police negotiating with Seabrooks for quite a few hours just before shooting him as he leapt from a bathroom.

The workplace mentioned Seabrooks “came out of the bathroom and lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand.”

At his memorial Saturday, Lisa Muhammad, who study a tribute, mentioned Seabrooks’ death, like his life, need to inspire other individuals.

“That has to be the final Black man they kill,” she mentioned.

Editor’s Note: If you are facing a mental overall health disorder, you are not alone. Mental overall health problems impact people today from all places of life and all ages, but are treatable. Get in touch with Substance Abuse and Mental Wellness Solutions Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-Assistance (4357) for therapy referral and details.

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Deion Johnson may possibly be reached at Stick to him on Twitter @DeionRJohhnson

Daysi Calavia-Robertson may possibly be reached at Stick to her on Instagram at @presspassdaysi or Twitter @presspassdaysi.

S.P. Sullivan may possibly be reached at Stick to him on Twitter @spsullivan.

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