March 26, 2023 3:26 pm

They known as him the “neighborhood hero and healer.”

Najee Seabrooks was “a pillar in the community” who constructed bridges among quarreling youngsters, rival gang members and victims of gun violence in a city that has noticed its share ahead of his personal life was reduce quick at 31, loved ones and buddies mentioned at a memorial Saturday.

Police shot and killed Seabrooks soon after 5 hours of tense negotiations as he was in the grips of an apparent mental overall health episode, harming himself with knives and calling 911 several occasions.

Hundreds gathered at the Christian Fellowship Center in Paterson, a line snaking in rows as soft gospel played. Seabrooks lay in an open casket, wearing a black suit and a pair of black and white Vans sneakers, his preferred footwear.

“By the quantity of folks right here now, we recognize that he was loved,” the Rev. Sarah Anthony mentioned.

Seabrooks’ operate for the Paterson Healing Collective, a regional nonprofit, drew him to the city’s most vulnerable folks, as properly as these most most likely to commit violence. It also connected him to these with influence, from regional activists to members of the City Council and the head of a regional hospital, who mentioned his death should really spur reform.

The March three incident has renewed urgency in conversations more than how emergency responders manage folks in the throes of a mental overall health crisis, like what is the ideal way for police to respond to such calls.

In an obituary, his loved ones recalled his positivity and “infectious smile.”

Born and raised in Paterson, Seabrooks was a championship basketball player for Eastside Higher College. He got an associate’s degree from Ventura College in California but returned property to Paterson exactly where, soon after surviving a drive-by shooting, he started operate as a “high-threat intervention specialist,” handling some of the nonprofit’s most difficult instances.

Outdoors of operate, his tastes tended toward the easier pleasures. Video games and pizza. Coaching his tiny brother, Sutan, in basketball. Ice cream in the park with his four-year-old daughter, Sofia.

A man wearing a jacket emblazoned with a memorial portrait of Najee Seabrooks enters the funeral on Saturday.

“He loved her far more than something and would do all he could to make confident she was taken care of,” his loved ones wrote.

His mother, Melissa Carter, cried out although she viewed his physique one particular final time, as roses have been placed inside her son’s casket.

“Why?” she screamed as she returned to her seat.

“This shouldn’t have occurred,” a person else shouted.

Teddie Martinez was Seabrooks’ mentor at the Paterson Healing Collective, but mentioned it was he who discovered “so substantially about life” from the younger Seabrooks, even turning him into a convert for Vans sneakers.

“As lengthy as I have breath in me, Najee’s name will not go in vain,” he mentioned.

Martinez mentioned he was denied access to Seabrooks for the duration of the police standoff regardless of his personal operate as a violence interventionist. His group has argued Seabrooks could possibly have survived the ordeal if he had gotten psychiatric care when he required it, and Martinez asked these assembled to “not drop the ball on this” and to continue to demand “Justice for Najee.”

State Lawyer Basic Matthew Platkin’s workplace is investigating Seabrooks’ killing as expected by state law. The workplace on Thursday released hours of physique camera footage displaying police negotiating with Seabrooks for many hours ahead of shooting him as he leapt from a bathroom.

The workplace mentioned Seabrooks “came out of the bathroom and lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand.”

At his memorial Saturday, Lisa Muhammad, who study a tribute, mentioned Seabrooks’ death, like his life, should really inspire other folks.

“That has to be the final Black man they kill,” she mentioned.

Editor’s Note: If you are facing a mental overall health disorder, you are not alone. Mental overall health issues impact folks from all regions of life and all ages, but are treatable. Contact Substance Abuse and Mental Wellness Solutions Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-Assistance (4357) for remedy referral and facts.

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Deion Johnson may well be reached at Stick to him on Twitter @DeionRJohhnson

Daysi Calavia-Robertson may well be reached at Stick to her on Instagram at @presspassdaysi or Twitter @presspassdaysi.

S.P. Sullivan may well be reached at Stick to him on Twitter @spsullivan.

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