PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A man in New Jersey died behind bars earlier this month, and some are accusing police of not doing enough to save his life.
Tensions are rising after Jameek Lowery, 27, live-streamed his final moments at Paterson Police headquarters on Facebook. The incident has strained relations between the community and police department and on Thursday, Mayor Andre Sayegh announced new plans to rebuild trust.
“There have been specific incidents here in Paterson that have played a significant role in the erosion of trust in law enforcement,” Sayegh said amid ongoing tensions over the January 5th death of Lowery.
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Lowery can be heard yelling for water, telling 911 dispatchers he ingested too much ecstasy. Officers called an ambulance, but reportedly didn’t offer any further help. Lowery was taken to the hospital, where he died two days later.
“(We’re) going to hold all of those who are responsible for this tragic and needless death accountable,” Lowery family attorney Harley Breite said. “We’ll be moving forward with our own investigation.”
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office said police used physical force, but health officials said Lowery may have had bacterial meningitis. They warned those who came in contact with him, including police officials, and the mayor who met him a week earlier, to seek medical attention.
Since Lowery’s death, angry protesters have been rallying outside Paterson City Hall as they wait for the results of a state medical exam and independent autopsy.
Both were called by the family to explain what happened.
“Really, who is responsible for the death of Jameek? Is it Saint Joseph’s hospital? Is it associated with that ambulance ride? Or is it police brutality,” activist Lynda Gallashaw said.
Demonstrators want Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Governor Phil Murphy to investigate. The governor even cancelled an unrelated scheduled visit to Paterson Wednesday night due to the unrest.
On Thursday, Mayor Sayegh announced the ‘Tools for Trust’ Program, which include looking into body cameras, creating a citizen advisory board for more transparency, and an independent audit of the police department.
“I understand the frustration, we are all frustrated,” Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale said. “This will give a lot of different people a voice to meet with myself, the chief, of other members of the police department.”
A series of barriers remain up in front of City Hall. Police are expecting more protesters to turn up again following Lowery’s funeral, which begins at noon on Friday.
The three officers seen in Lowery’s Facebook Live video have been placed on leave pending an investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor.