What to Know
- Paterson's mayor has announced several initiatives aimed at repairing trust between police and the community following Jameek Lowery's death
- At a press conference Thursday, the mayor acknowledged that allegations of excessive force and corruption have eroded trust in police
- The initiatives include an audit of the department an effort to buy police body cameras and the creation of a citizen advisory board
The mayor of Paterson has announced several new initiatives aimed at repairing trust between police and the community — a little over a week after the death of 27-year-old Jameek Lowery sparked outrage in the city.
At a press conference Thursday, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh acknowledged that allegations of excessive force and corruption have eroded trust in Paterson’s police department.
“It didn’t start with this incident, or this administration,” Sayegh said, referring to Lowery’s death. “I want to reassure you that your concerns have been heard.”
An independent audit of the police department, an effort to buy body cameras for police officers and the creation of a citizen advisory board are among the initiatives Sayegh is pushing.
The board will be “the ears and eyes” that will meet with police leadership to discuss important matters in the community, Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale told News 4.
The city’s clergy, meanwhile, will be integral in rolling out the new initiatives.
The mayor has promised the city will provide answers as to how Lowery died.
Lowery first called 911 at around 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 5, saying he had taken ecstasy and was paranoid, according to a preliminary investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.
"Um, I think I, um, took too many E-pills, ecstasy pills," he said in a recording of his 911 call that was released publicly.
"And what's going on with you?" the operator asked.
"Um, paranoid," he said.
EMS responded and took him to a local hospital, but Lowery became erratic there and left.
At around 3:40 a.m., Lowery again called 911, this time from a Wendy's restaurant near Broadway and Memorial Drive, saying people were trying to kill him, the prosecutor's office said. He walked into the Paterson Police headquarters nearby at 111 Broadway, appearing agitated.
While inside police headquarters, Lowery livestreamed to his Facebook page from inside the police station, shouting in an apparent fit of paranoia, "Please don't shoot me. This officer by the wall, I see you, they're trying to kill me. They right there!"
He ranted, at times incoherently, "I see y'all trying to kill me. Why are you trying to kill me? What'd I do, officer? ... I said I need help, I need help, go to the hospital, somebody trying to kill me. Somebody help me."
"Somebody call my mom. The cops trying to kill me, they think I'm a witness, they think I'm f---ing with the FBI. That's what they think."
"Watch out, if I'm dead by the next hour or two, they did it," he shouted in the video. "I didn't touch them at all."
When the officers assured him an ambulance was on the way, he responded, "Yo, they're gonna kill me in the ambulance."
The officers maintained their distance while Lowery recorded on his cellphone, and attempted to calm him from afar: "All right, just relax," one told him. When he told them he was dehydrated and needed water, someone is heard telling him, "The hospital has water."
EMS arrived and an ambulance transported him to the hospital, a ride that took about 5 to 12 minutes, according to police and fire records. Sometime in that ride, he lost consciousness.
"Per initial reports and information, police used physical force and compliance holds to secure Mr. Lowery in the ambulance," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
When Lowery arrived at the hospital, he was unresponsive. Hospital records didn't indicate any acute trauma, but his parents and friends said he ended up bloodied and bruised when they saw him at the hospital. He did not have those injuries in the Facebook video.
He was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 7.
His death sparked outrage and protests in Paterson, with calls growing for an investigation into how he wound up bloodied, bruised and unresponsive at the hospital.
“There is potential that Paterson police, we believe, beat this man to death, but we want to know the truth and we want to make sure this is an open and fair process," said one protester.
But authorities are looking into whether Lowery may have had bacterial meningitis, a highly contagious infection, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
A doctor who saw Lowery at the hospital told investigators those bruises and swelling were consistent with advanced meningitis, sources said last week.
The family has also been told that reports of a broken socket date back to an injury Lowery received about a year ago, and have no connection to the way police dealt with him.