The 911 call that June morning in 2013 described a man "who seemed to be distraught" by the side of the road. And when a state trooper arrived at the scene on busy Route 28 in Quincy, he found exactly that: Wilfredo Justiniano, 41, shouting at the officer to go ahead and kill him, reports the Boston Globe.
What happened next, according to a lawsuit to be filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, violated Justiniano's civil rights and caused his wrongful death by excessive force. When chemical spray did not stop the agitated, unarmed man from advancing toward him, the state trooper shot and killed Justiniano, of New Bedford, who suffered from schizophrenia and lived with his mother.
The complaint, filed by Justiniano's younger sister Damaris Justiniano against Colonel Timothy P. Alben, the head of the Massachusetts State Police, and the involved trooper, a 25-year veteran, alleges that Alben failed to provide the agency with "policies, procedures and equipment allowing citizens with mental health crises to be treated through humane, nonlethal means."
After an investigation in 2013, Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey found the shooting was justified and described it as "a tragedy for all involved." He said witness statements supported the trooper's claim that he tried to defuse the confrontation before shooting Justiniano.
In Massachusetts, efforts to increase mental health training for police have sharply increased in the past year, pushed by the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The family’s lawsuit challenges the State Police for failing to install cameras in its cruisers and for failing to implement the use of less-lethal weapons such as Tasers.