When the State College group Community and Campus in Unity met Monday night, the focus was on the fatal shooting of Osaze Osagie and rebuilding community trust.
“Thank you for everyone’s comments so far and questions. I’m warmed by the fact that so many people are here, because Osaze has been heavy on my heart," said State College resident Eric Ian Farmer. "One hundred and three years of a police department without killing any resident. What about this particular event or incident, was so unique?”
Farmer was one of many who spoke during the meeting in the borough building that drew more than 100 people.
A State College police officer fatally shot Osagie March 20 in his apartment, when police went to make a mental health check. Osagie reportedly confronted them with a knife. The shooting is the first known fatal police shooting by State College borough police.
Questions were raised about what happened, how the case will be handled and racial bias. Osagie was African-American.
Seria Chatters was the coordinator of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Schools and Communities program at Penn State. She said those in the mental health field often work with people who are a threat to themselves or others.
“Of course, police officers, we know they go directly into the line of fire," she said. "But, we were just asking that we would hope there is some way that mental health and police can work together, so that there is an individual who is a professional in that that is on the scene.”
State College Police Chief John Gardner said officers go into these situations wanting to engage with the person. He said they had dealt with Osagie before and had not had this type of interaction. He also said his department has a “robust” internal affairs process.
“The only way that we can gain your trust, keep your trust is by having forum like this," Gardner said. "And by assuring the public that we don’t put up with nonsense in the police department.”
State College police turned the case over to Pennsylvania state police.
Will Slaton, commander of the Heritage Affairs section in the Pennsylvania State Police Equality and Inclusion Office, said police did use a Taser first, but it wasn't effective. He also said Pennsylvania state police have no problem charging an officer if they’ve done something wrong.