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Osagie Family Plans To Sue State College Police, Calls For Reform

Attorney Kathleen Yurcak stands next to Iyunolu and Sylvester Osagie Sept. 12, 2019, during a press conference
Anne Danahy

Attorneys for the family of the 29-year-old State College man who was fatally shot by police in March have filed a notice of plans to sue the State College police. At a press conference Thursday, attorneys said they believe the death was avoidable and want access to all information in the case.

With Osaze Osagie’s parents standing behind them, lawyers for the family — including Andrew Celli — said the legal filing is the first step in holding the system responsible.

“We expect action to occur as a result of this: policy changes, training, personnel consequences if those are appropriate, compensation to the family and a genuine effort to heal this community and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past,” Celli said.

Osagie, who was African-American, had a history of mental illness. His father contacted police on March 19, concerned his son was not taking his medication. One of the police officers who went to Osagie’s apartment fatally shot him, saying Osagie came at him with a knife.

An investigation by the Centre County District Attorney’s Office and an internal review by State College police found police were justified in their use of force.

Attorney Andrew Shubin called it a lost opportunity. He said the police, the district attorney and law enforcement could have reflected on what went wrong and learned from it.

“They had that chance," Shubin said. "They had that opportunity, and they did not take it. And I think that’s to the detriment of our community.”

Shubin questioned why police officers who responded knew so little about the circumstances and treated it as a “routine call.”

In their filing, the attorneys say the police officers’ actions constituted "willful misconduct."

The borough declined to comment. But, State College assistant manager Tom King spoke from the audience during the news conference, listing steps the borough is taking. That includes creating an equity plan and hiring consultants to review borough policies and practices.

The Law Office of Andrew Shubin supports programs on WPSU. 

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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