Left to right: Assistant District Attorney of Berkshire County, Jocelyn McGrath; District Attorney Andrea Harrington, and Ryan Dickinson, Detective Lieutenant, Massachusetts State Police, Commander of State Police Detective Unit; photo by Jason Velázquez

Top Left Corner #164: No Justice for Miguel

The following is a recording of the proceedings of the press conference held Friday, August 5, 2:00 p.m. in the offices of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington, who released the findings of her office concerning the fatal shooting of 22 year old Pittsfield resident Miguel Estrella by Officer Nicholas Sondrini of the Pittsfield Police Department. The audio has been edited to improve sound quality and to remove silences during which silent video footage was shown. That video footage is available on the shownotes of this episode of the Top Left Corner at greylockglass.com. A rough transcript of the event is also available. We apologize for the imperfections and will revise the text as soon as possible. 

Transcript of August 5 Press Conference

Outside, nighttime photo of a police scene with a residential street centered and houses in the background illuminated by the colored lights emergency vehicles.
The crisis scene at 279 Onota Street, Pittsfield, Mass., where police responded to 911 calls for assistance for a young man suffering a mental health lapse, but shot him to death in the street after short minutes.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Good afternoon. And I want to thank members of the media for attending today. My name is Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington. I am joined today by Detective Lieutenant Ryan Dickinson, the commander of the State Police Detective Unit. Assistant District Attorney Jocelyn McGrath. And we also have with us today Elina Estrella. She’s here with her counsel, Mayor Tyer, Pittsfield Police Chief Mike Wynne. Lisa McHugh, the director of the Victim Witness Advocate Program here in the district attorney’s office. And Sadie Woolstenhulme, who is our media digital media evidence assistant who is helping me put on a presentation today for you.

Today, my office is releasing our findings of fact, conclusions of law and our complete investigation into the shooting death of Miguel Estrella by Pittsfield Police Officer Nicholas Sondrini. I once again send my deep condolences to Mr. Estrella’s mother Marisol, his sister Elena, his brother Sean Carlos, his extended family and friends with a terrible loss. It is important to acknowledge the trauma that Miguel’s death inflicted, not only on his loved ones and those who witnessed the shooting, but on the larger community, particularly on black and brown people, those struggling with mental health and on the West Side community. I set two goals for this investigation to establish the facts necessary to determine the police officers involved in Mr. Estrella shooting acted criminally and to provide Mr. Estrella family and community with a comprehensive and independent accounting of the events that occurred on March 25th that led to Mr. Estrella’s tragic death.

The State Police Detective unit assigned to my office conducted an independent, objective and thorough investigation. The detectives canvased the neighborhood multiple times and conducted dozens of witnesses reviews. The state police obtained video footage, reports on Tasers and ShotSpotter data. Hospital and autopsy records. Crime scene photos and videos. They reviewed radio transmissions and dispatches and analyze ballistics. We released our findings of fact legal conclusions and our complete investigation to the Estrella family yesterday at a meeting here in my office. We released the same information to Mayor Tire and to Chief Wayne yesterday, and we met with them after we met with the family chief when they shared the findings of investigation with his officers yesterday.

Statement of Elina Estrella, sister of Miguel Estrella

My name is Elina Estrella. And I am Miguel’ sister. I have a short statement on the behalf of the family, and I won’t be taking any questions today. You can contact David Guarino at SurvivorsSay.org, number (617) 548-4981 for future contact with media. We’re feeling so much hurt and pain, but we want to thank the people in the community for their support, the D.A. for allowing me to stand up here and speak, and the state police for their findings. Miguel died because there’s something wrong with the way that we deal with mental health crises. He was cutting his face with a box cutter. That’s why the police were called the first time. The person who called 911 said he had been cutting himself and he had mental health issues.

A young woman, Elina Estrella, speaking behind a podium into microphones.
Elina Estrella, reading a statement at the District Attorney’s release of the findings of her office’s investigation into the fatal shooting of her brother, Miguel Estrella, by Pittsfield Police Officer Nicholas Sondrini.

About the first encounter, I cannot help but wonder whether the police should have taken him to the psychiatric ward. Why wasn’t the mental health professional who works with the police department there? How can calls for help during a mental health crisis end up in the person needing help getting shot and killed. The calls went out not because Miguel was threatening anyone else or because others were scared for their own safety, but because others were concerned that Miguel was hurting himself. Clearly this was a mental health crisis.

Every day we still think about the what ifs. What if Miguel had been assisted by a mental health professional who was trained in de-escalation? What if the police had been more proactive in getting Miguel the medical help that he needed that night during the first encounter, even if he had denied cutting himself or wanting to hurt himself? We need to do better. We need to answer these questions so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Miguel was a kind, big hearted, complicated son, brother, and more so to many of us. He loved his friends. He loved his family, his girlfriend and his mother very much. Miguel cared about us and his community. He did work for Habitat for Humanity and encouraged those to do better. He had stumbled, but he tried to stay positive. Miguel was becoming the change he wanted to see in his community. This loss didn’t just affect his family and friends. It affected his colleagues, his community. And this is how we want him to be remembered. Thank you for your time.

Today, we are releasing a comprehensive report on our findings and our complete investigation to the public. I thank Detective Lieutenant Dickinson and his team for their work on this investigation. I thank my team for their assistance in putting all of the pieces together. I especially want to thank the witnesses who shared their memories and perspectives with the state police. We would not be able to provide these critical facts without the willingness to speak to detectives. You will see when you review their statements that the witnesses were traumatized by their experiences and all appear to be sincere and committed to sharing their memories to the best of their abilities in order to protect the privacy of the civilian witnesses who assisted in the investigation.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: We address them only by their initials. I’m going to walk through an overview of the events of that evening, and then I will present our legal conclusions. I ask that you please rely on the written materials that my office has provided to you as the definitive facts. I’m providing an overview just to give you an idea of what to look for, because it is a voluminous investigation. I also ask that you hold your questions until the end. So when we purchased our courtroom technology, we got this software called Crime Lines to use for jury presentations. So this is the first time that we’ve used this software. So we thought that this was a good opportunity to use it. And also to share with you an overview of our investigation. Mr. Estrada’s girlfriend described Miguel as a motivating person and a good person who worked for Habitat for Humanity, and that he would talk to half the police at the gym in the morning and that he was cool with them. On Friday, March 25th, Miguel picked his girlfriend up from work at approximately 9:00 pm. They returned to their apartment at 279 Oak Street. Miguel began cutting himself on the face with a box cutter. He cut his face multiple times. He had cuts all over his face that were bloody with little cuts that seem like he was scraping.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Miguel’s girlfriend asked her friend to call an ambulance because she felt that he needs someone in crisis with someone. The sister of Miguel’s girlfriend described an incident about a month and a half prior to the March 25th crisis. When Miguel was drinking. He broke a bottle off his head and he cut himself. At the time, Miguel objected to the girlfriend’s sister calling the police and saying something along the lines of they were going to have to kill him. Miguel’s girlfriend was able to calm him down during the prior incident and brought him to a friend’s house to spend the night. So we’re going to play the first nine on one call that came into the night of March 25th. Pittsfield police then received a second 911 emergency call from a different person at approximately. And next, we’re going to play for you the initial dispatch radio. The gals girlfriend sister left the apartment and while waiting for an ambulance, Miguel’s girlfriend attempted to call Miguel down. Miguel let her take a box cutter from him, but then later grabbed a small kitchen knife. The girlfriend said that she believed that he was ready to take himself. When officers on duty arrived, the couple had left the apartment, were in a car on their way to see a friend of the girls who they thought could help him. Officers on duty arrived at 951.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Mr. Estrella got out of the car to speak with the officer. Sandrine described Estrella as being originally apprehensive. He said that Estrella, who was holding a bottle of liquor, said that he was not driving and was not doing anything wrong. So Drini told him he was just there to make sure that he was okay and to see if he needed help. Officer Coffey arrived after some training. He believed that the 911 call caller had said that an individual was making statements. This is shorthand for section 12 statements or threats of suicide, which give an officer legal authority to take an individual into custody for medical treatment. He understood the dispatch to mean that the individual was having some type of mental health issue. Coffee arrived and saw Sandrine Estrella and the girlfriend in the middle of the parking lot parked his cruiser on the curb and walked up to them. This is a clip from Officer Saunders’s video and audio recorded statement. Sandrine said he asked Mr. Estrella about the cut on his face and coffee said that Miguel responded that he got it at work. Sandrine said that Miguel refused medical aid. At about this time, the girlfriend’s sister returned Sandrine impression that was that Mr. Estrella appeared to be really intoxicated. He appeared to be using a car to lean on, non slow to move, and seemed unsteady on his feet. Coffey Estrella appeared intoxicated, but not to the point where he was incapable of taking care of himself.

Photo of a small kitchen knife lying in the street by the curb.
The kitchen knife wielded by Miguel Estrella, that provided the legal defense of the fatal shooting of the 22-year-old Estrella; photo courtesy Berkshire County District Attorney.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: He was very coherent. Estrella knew who he was, where he was. He was able to walk on his own, talk on his own situation, assess his rights, and determine what he wanted and what he didn’t want. We have a clip from Officer Kelsey’s statement to play. As part of our investigation, the state police interviewed the sister of Mr. Miguel Estrella girlfriend who was on scene. We have a clip to play from her statement. At 10 p.m., two EMTs arrived at the scene. They understood that the call was to assist the officers in the evaluation of an individual with a facial laceration. Estrella ultimately agreed to let them out of the cut. The EMTs describe the cut as superficial and pretty minor and noted that the bleeding was controlled. The EMTs did take a photo of Mr. Estrella with his injury. One EMT said that he asked him if he wanted to go down to the hospital to get it checked out. And Mr. Estrella said no. As EMS was examining Estrella on duty, notice that Estrella had a knife in his pocket. The Court Estrellas I who saw him noticing it and some drini reached over and removed the knife. When asked about Estrella apparent level of intoxication, one EMT thought that he may have seen a little intoxicated from his view. Estrella seemed calm, and he just wanted to get this over with.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Coffee said that Miguel’s girlfriend told him that Miguel was drunk and having a hard time, but that he was fine. Coffey told them, If anything happens, just give us a call and we’ll come back and we’ll reassess and we’ll help you from there. At the end of the assessment, EMS instructed Estrella on how to care for his cut, took his information and asked if he would like to go to the hospital. Estrella said no. At 1004, 4 minutes after their arrival, EMS left the scene. Coffey’s understanding was that they did not find any reason that force Mr. Estrella to go to the hospital. He said that Estrella did not mention any statements of wanting to hurt himself and said he had just been drinking and wanted to go to bed. The officers did not see any other injuries or blood anywhere else on Mr. Estrella, his body or clothes. They said they did not hear any outward statements and they did not have a name. 911 College. Sandrine thought that the women appeared comfortable with the plan to leave Miguel in his girlfriend’s care. Miguel’s girlfriend stated in her statement. Coffee and sun. Judy left the scene at 1006, 15 minutes after arriving. The two women said they went back inside with Miguel and approximately 10:10 p.m. another call came into PD. And we have a compilation of dispatch from that evening that we’re going to play for you.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: So as you can hear, that was a compilation of the dispatch calls from the entire second visit to Portland Avenue when the officers were initially dispatched for their second call. Officer Coffey asked dispatch if there were any EMS units available. Coffey believe that a Section 12, if a Section 12 was warranted to avoid de-escalation, it would be better to transport Mr. Estrella in an ambulance rather than in a police cruiser in handcuffs. Officer Coffey was the first officer to return to the scene at 1017. We have a clip from. This is from Miguel Estrella, his girlfriend. When Officer Coffey arrived, he saw Estrella and his girlfriend in the street. They were on the far side of Woodbine Avenue, on the left hand side of the road to Coffey. It looked like Estrella was in a pushing match with her. He did not actually see him push her or create distance, but it seemed like they were pushing back and forth. He could also see what appeared to be a large knife in his right hand. Along his forearm, Coffey radioed Sandrine and told him to step it up. So he understood step it up as a direction to go. Lights and sirens because something bad was happening. So Audrina arrived a second later. Coffey stepped out of his cruiser, drew his taser, turned it on and pointed it at Estrella.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: He started giving commands to Mr. Estrella to drop the knife. Sandrine turned onto Woodbine and pulled up behind Coffey’s cruiser in front of the Bartlett house. He saw Coffey standing near his cruiser, pointing his taser at Estrella. He also saw Miguel’s girlfriend, who was yelling at Estrella to stop and put the knife down. Coffey was also telling him to drop the knife, so he got out of his cruiser, drew his handgun and approached a neighbor who witnessed this, said that both of Estella’s hands were clenched as he held the knife. Coffey described as well as posture, as very aggressive. Both officers described him as having a boxing stance, hands up and fists, palms down with the handle of the knife in his hand and the blade of the knife pointing down. Coffey said that like a boxer, he was bobbing and weaving and moving his head. Sandrine said that Estrella was yelling that he could not understand him. The girlfriend described Estrella as unstable and was only walking forward because he was drunk and the sister described him as unsteady and that he was moving because he kind of couldn’t stand still. We have some photos of the street just to give you a sense of the layout. The apartment apartment building is over here. This is Woodbine Avenue, and that’s another street. These are lines from where the tasers were. We don’t know exactly where they were when they were.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Sandrine believed believe that Estrella and Coffey were approximately 15 to 20 feet away from each other. Sandra said he positioned himself about five feet to the right of coffee in front of the cruisers. The neighbor said that at the beginning Estrella was arguing with the officers. He said the officers were telling him to put the knife down, trying to help calm him down, but that Mr. Estrella did not want to listen to them. He said Miguel’s girlfriend was on the other sidewalk, telling Estrella to calm down and relax and to stop doing this, but that he was not listening at all. As he moved, Mr. Estrada had begun closing the gap between him and the officers. The girlfriend got between them and tried to stop him, but he kept moving. The girlfriend was now positioned right in front of Coffey and he kept pulling her back with him. Coffee said Miguel raised his posture and had the knife a little higher than before. Coffee pulled the girlfriend back again and deployed his taser. He estimated his distance to Mr. Estrella as 12 to 15 feet did recover the knife at the scene. It was recovered in front of that house at the end of the street. That’s the knife in the street. That’s a close up of the nine. After firing coffee, Santorini on his right side, approximately five or ten feet away. Coffey’s first teaser deployment caused only a little bit of tensing of the body, some shaking of the arms, but not a full muscle lock.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Sondra saw coffee deploy his Taser. He said Miguel was shaking, but he was still standing. So Andre wanted to try again in order to get him to go down so we could move in on them. As Mr. Estrella crouched down to pull the probes out, some drini holstered his handgun, drew his Taser and fired his taser deployment had no effect and he did not know if he had hit or miss. When Coffey saw that Sandrine, his Taser deployment had no effect. He pulled the trigger on his Taser for another five second cycle, but also without effect. We have a quote for you to take in from a neighbor who was a civilian witness who spoke to the state police detectives. After the Taser deployments, Coffey transitioned to his firearm and the officers back down would bind to a.A. The officers were keeping approximately 15 to 20 feet of distance of space from Mr. Estrella. Sandrine was in the process of reloading his taser when he saw Mr. Estrada’s girlfriend run up to Miguel on the left side of the road. Miguel stood up, resumed his stance, and started walking towards her. Sandra attempted to holster his Taser and drew his firearm again. Sandrine said that when the girlfriend got within five or six feet of Estrella, Miguel raised the knife.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Sandrine thought that he was about to hit her and was ready to fire and started yelling commands. Don’t do it, just drop it. Then she backed up out of his view and he did not know if she had retreated or Coffey had pulled her back. There was a witness who was out walking her dog at the time who made a statement to the state police. We have a clip from her statement for you. The neighbor told a similar story to the dog walker, saying that Estrella started walking towards the cop down to the intersection of Woodbine and a.A. He said Estrella and the officers were dispersed like a triangle with Mr. Estrella in the middle. He said Mr. Estrella was pretty much telling them to back up and he was backing up and the officers got into the intersection area so he couldn’t back up anymore. The girlfriend sister said that after the officers tased Mr. Estrella twice, her sister begged the officers not to shoot Estrella. She heard Coffey telling Mr. Estrella to just give him the knife, to put the knife down, and he repeatedly said, You don’t want to do this. She said Coffey was trying hard to actually talk to him and try to get him to calm down. Sandra said that Estrella was yelling and advancing not fast, but zigzagging between him and coffee. Estrella would walk and stop and start yelling.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Kind of like psyching himself up, then appear to stab himself in the thigh. Then Miguel moved toward the officers again. The girlfriend was near copy, pleading with the officers not to shoot. Estrella Coffee said that she was constantly engaging with him verbally and physically. Sandrine saw that Coffey was trying to hold her back with one arm and he had his handgun out with the other on the coffee cup, telling her to just please stay behind him so that he could try to help Estrella. But she kept coming in front of him and he had to keep pulling her backwards. We have some additional scene photos. So this photo was taken. This is a notice street. And then that’s goodbye. Apartment apartments right there. And there’s the apartment at the apartment building. The witness who was walking the dog heard one of the officers say, we just want to get you some help or there’s help for you. Estrella was on the edge of a note and the officers were in the middle of the street right at the double yellow divider. Coffee said that as they were in the road, continuing to try to back up the car, drove by us at a very high rate of speed, going north in the right lane of a street. He thought that all three of them almost got hit. The girlfriend was on Corky’s left and some Trini approximately five or ten feet to his right.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Sandra said that Estrella stepped on the side of the soda and for the first time started talking directly to coffee. He said to coffee that this is what the officers wanted. The officers wanted to shoot people like him. Coffee felt that Estrella addressed him specifically as a minority and also a man of ethnic background. Coffee begged him to put the knife down and told him that EMS was on its way and any minute and that he could get the help that he needed. While Estrella was talking to coffee, Sandra saw that he was engaged and not moving, and he thought he might be able to reload his Taser and attempt another deployment. When he reached for his Taser, he realized he was not in his holder. Coffee said that at this point that they were just begging him to please drop the weapon. Sandra said that after Estrella talked directly to Coffey, Miguel then attempted to stab himself in the stomach. Coffee said that he raised the 9 to 4 head level and he then over did the whole motion and stopped. Then Estrella very quickly shot up, return to a fighting posture based on Drini and advanced on him rapidly. Miguel took quick steps faster than before and held the knife in his boxing stance with the palm down grip. So Drini said he thought that they were ten feet apart. When Estrella started walking towards him.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Estrella took a step towards him and then another step. And that is when he fired twice. He thought that Estrella was about six feet away from him when he fired that state police ballistics unit did testing. And based on the gunshot residue on Mr. Estrella clothing, they determined that they were up to 84 inches apart, which is 70. The neighbor also said he heard Sondra say, don’t make me do this. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m trying to help you. The State Police obtain video surveillance from Jojo’s hair salon. It’s not the best angle, but it provides some verification of the facts and the timeline shared by the witnesses. So this video we had enhanced by the FBI, so the pieces of the video that are important that we want to see are clearer. It makes the rest of the video a little bit cloudy. It’s going to be difficult for you all to see back there. We do have that on the flash drive that we provided. But we can dim the lights if you want. For you to come up closer. If you want to be able to do the video. I. So that’s we find that the car is turning on to. We can see some figures standing in the street. This is a motor street. You can see the dog walker that’s across the street. This is the first police car arriving. Was the second cruiser. The.

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: But.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: It’s. That’s. So Indrani said that when you shot him, Mr. Estrella was really close and fell on the ground at his feet. Face down. Sondra holstered his gun to two steps back, forward and kneel down. He rolled Mr. Estrella over, who was kind of face down on the side. He pulled up his shirt and started administrating, administering first aid from supplies he kept on the pouch on his belt. He put a clotting agent on the visible gunshot wound and applied pressure. Coffey radioed in that shots were fired, holstered his firearm and ran and shot. Coffey saw the knife near his hand and he kicked it up and threw it behind him. Toward the southwest quarter of Arizona, Sandra administered aid until Lieutenant Bradford instructed another officer to take over. Sergeant Parisi and Coffey delivered aid to Estrella until EMS arrived. Ems arrived and saw two officers tending to Mr. Estrella lying on the ground and were informed that he had been shot. They saw that he was unresponsive, but that he had some chest movement suggesting that he was breathing. Mr. Estrella had two gunshot wounds in his upper right chest area, and the officers were holding pressure to the wounds. Ems moved him onto a stretcher, but while he was being loaded into the ambulance, he stopped breathing. They performed CPR on Mr. Estrella while we were driving to the hospital. Despite attempted emergency surgery at the hospital, Mr. Estrella died as a result of a gunshot wound around 11:20 p.m..

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: As part of police policy, both officers were taken to the hospital from the scene for a full assessment. Neither had any injuries. So Andre’s firearm injury belt was secured by another officer at the hospital, Coffey’s firearm and in his possession until they were inspected by a trooper from ballistics. Later that evening. My office has placed a high priority on providing a detailed and objective criminal investigation as this is a matter of public trust. And I’m confident that we’ve exhausted all investigatory avenues to ensure full transparency. As to the events of that evening, the facts that we have gathered demonstrate that officers saw Drini acted in self defense when he shot Miguel Estrella. Massachusetts General Law states that officers are within their lawful authority to use lethal force when they have exhausted as many attempts at de-escalation is feasible. When lethal force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm and the force is proportional to the threat and harm the third party. Eyewitness reports demonstrate that the officers provided numerous verbal warnings, created distance and called for additional resources to help resolve the incident. In attempts to de-escalate the Taser, evidence shows they attempted less lethal force. The video shows that Mr. Estrella is movement toward the officers and the knife found on the scene is a proportional threat to officer safety. These elements are well established in law. The facts discovered during the course of this investigation do not establish probable cause to charge the officer, nor would the Commonwealth be able to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt required for a criminal prosecution.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: These are sad and tragic circumstances, but they are not criminal. Mr. Estrella and his family have suffered an injustice. Many systems failed. Miguel Estrella. He did not receive the mental health services that he needed. This is the result of decades of failure to invest in basic health care at the federal and state level. And people here in Berkshire County are suffering due to that failure. Tragedies like these create distrust between law enforcement and the community, especially in historically oppressed communities suffering disproportionate rates of police violence. Mr. Straw, his death reflects the dire and urgent need for culturally competent resources to address mental health and wellness. And calling on the Legislature to provide this community with resources for mental health treatment that recognize cultural differences and attitudes towards mental health. Communicates effectively and understands the complexity of how someone interacts with others based on their experiences. I hope that my office is investigation supports stakeholders to come together to identify procedural and systemic reforms that promote the health and well-being of our community and prevent tragedies. I would like to use this opportunity to highlight the availability of the newly launched 988 hotline. It offers long term hope to transform mental response. The 988 Lifeline is a national network of over 200 local, independent crisis centers equipped to help people in mental health related distress or experiencing suicidal crisis via call, text or chat.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: The 98 Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health related distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Numerous studies have shown that most callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking to a nine, eight, eight lifeline crisis. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to the staff here at the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, to the Berkshire State Police Detective Unit, the State Police, Crime Scene Services Section, Firearms Identification section, as well as the forensic scientist attached to the state police crime lab. I thank the police department for their full cooperation with this investigation, as well as the Berkshire Special Response Team, the Berkshire Sheriff’s Office, other EMS and public safety agencies who responded to the scene and assisted in this investigation. Finally, to the Estrellas family. I’m very sorry for your loss. Did not receive justice, but he will not be forgotten. My hope is that our community uses memory and these shared set of facts to lead us to solutions that will ensure that every person in our community gets the help that they need when they need it. Olina. Estrella would like to make a statement. She went off questions, but when she is done, I will take questions. Okay. I can take questions. I’m sorry. I don’t know your name, sir. Blue Shirt and.

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: Matt Martinez, the Berkshire Eagle. Wanted to find out when exactly the district attorney’s office made the determination that Sandra acted in self-defense.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, I mean, this is we conducted our investigation over the course of months. And as we develop the facts and we the laws, then we came to our legal conclusions. I don’t know that I could give you an exact date on that. Brittany.

Brittany Polito iBerkshires: Brittany Polito iBerkshires. So I just have a question in regards to the preliminary report.That came out. That stated that Miguel did not meet the criteria of a person in crisis. Is that still the determination with the final report?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: So that particular determination was a report that came from the Pittsfield Police Department, and that is based on Pittsfield Police Department policies. That is not an issue that my office considers or looks at, because those are not our policies, our legal conclusions to determine whether or not this was a crime and if we can charge the officers. So that was our analysis. We did want to provide a full accounting and complete details so that the police department, the city, the community, mental health providers can look at these facts and determine what is the best course of action forward.

Brittany Polito iBerkshires: Thank you.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Nancy

Nancy Eve Cohen, New England Public Media: Two questions about the police and one about your report about the police. Do you feel that the police should have 24, seven co responders?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, I definitely believe that we need to provide a different system for responding to people in crisis. And whether or not that means 24, seven co responders then or if it means some other model or avenue, I can’t say definitively, but I have been on ride alongs with the police department and with the responders, and I was on a ride along and I did see somebody involved. And it does seem like a very effective program.

Nancy Eve Cohen, New England Public Media: Another question on the police do feel that. They should be there, body cameras.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: I am fully in support of police wearing body cameras. As a prosecutor, we appreciate the evidence that we receive when police are doing body cameras. There are departments that we receive body cam footage from and we always want more evidence and we believe that they’re very helpful. So we encourage all of our law enforcement partners that we work with to wear body cameras.

Nancy Eve Cohen, New England Public Media: And about the report, this is very significant report. Why was it released on a Friday afternoon?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: We really wanted wanted to get the information out to the public. And this was just the best day that worked for everybody schedule. It was not any other reason than that. Yes, sir.

Jason Velázquez, The Greylock Glass: The initial report was sent back by chief when the internal investigation, the brochure reported that for a week they continued to work on the report to make it compliant with the 2020 Justice Reform Act. What exactly changed and why? Between the initial report and the revised report? Was it the facts that were augmented or what what exactly happened?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, I appreciate the question, but my office didn’t prepare the Pittsfield Police Report. And we had we really have nothing to do.

Jason Velázquez, The Greylock Glass: Did you have access to the initial report, as well?.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: So what I provided to you today is the information from my office. I did not provide anything.

Jason Velázquez, The Greylock Glass: Did you see the initial investigation, the initial or the original internal affairs report?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: I did receive a detailed report from the police department with exhibits, but I’m I’m sorry. I’m not sure if it was the initial report or a second report. It was not something that really was all that significant to me because we were doing our own investigation. I can tell you what we did rely on from the police report was the Taser report, but all of the other pieces of the investigation we developed on our own. Brittany.

Brittany Polito iBerkshires: I have two more questions. So the first one is, was there a determination of how many times Miguel was hit with the Taser

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, he did have a probe in his neck. So we know that he was hit at least once in his neck. Yes. Yes. But he could have been hit an additional time as well.

Brittany Polito iBerkshires: Okay. And my second question, I’m sure it’s in the binder, but how long did it take for the ambulance to get there after the two shots were fired?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: I’m sorry. I don’t know exactly the amount of time, but you could see on the video that’s that video is in real time. It’s not in clips like the dispatch are in clips. So you can see that on the video. And so it feels like a long time when you’re watching it, but it’s isn’t as long as it feels. I’m sorry, what was.Your name again?

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: Matt Martinez. I wanted to find out a little bit more about the length of this investigation, especially as it relates to the police department’s report as well, and why it’s taken this long to arrive at these conclusions.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, you know, I wouldn’t say that this report has taken an unusually long time, especially given how thorough our report is. And you’ll see when we give you the statement of facts that we have really been very thorough in a comprehensive review. We assemble facts from multiple hours of interviews and police reports and forensic reports. So it is a very detailed recitation of an overview of the facts. And we also provide our conclusions of law that are sophisticated analysis. If you look at prior investigations conducted by the district attorney’s office into police shootings, you will see that the timeline for for our investigation is basically equal to other investigations conducted by this office. I think Andy might know the exact time. And did you know? Do you remember how long the prior investigations took?

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: Yes. So the last one was it was five months, 20 days since the incident to the public release of it. We’re a little over ten months right now. So. Pretty much. Pretty much.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Any further questions? Yes. Mr. Martinez

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: I wanted to find out if the district attorney’s office is going to be making any recommendations to the police department in terms of responding to mental health calls in the future.

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: Well, I am not an expert in responding to crises or in responding to mental health situations. But I certainly am a partner in ensuring the health and the safety and well-being of people here in the community. And I would like to be helpful in the process of determining and making sure that we improve our responses. So I regard myself as a partner and a convener and certainly want to support the police department and the community. The community on the West Side, the Estrella family in moving forward and we have started to make contact with health care providers here in the county to get a sense of what kind of resources are available and what kind of resources can be made specifically for culturally competent mental health care in the west side of Pittsfield. And we will continue doing that work. Yes.

Matt Martinez, The Berkshire Eagle: Again, probably my last question for you, but I wanted to talk a little bit more about proportionality of force. I know we saw a close up of the knife that was used and used to justify essentially the self-defense. I wanted to ask a little bit more about how that determination is made in the investigation, as well as, for example, if Mr. Austria still had the box cutter on his person instead of that kitchen knife. What there a similar ruling in terms of proportionality of force?

Andrea Harrington, D.A. Berkshire County: I’m not going to answer theoretical questions, but what I will say is that it’s you review case law, which we did, an individual who was armed with a knife in the case law that is considered a deadly weapon and a response with a firearm is considered appropriate proportional force under the law. Okay. No further questions. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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