Video shows tense negotiations before police fatally shot a New Jersey man after an hours-long standoff

His voice sounded even and calm when he called 911, but Naji Seabrooks said someone was trying to kill him.

“Can I have two police cars down to Mill Street?” Seabrooks asked a dispatcher during the first of at least seven calls he would make from his brother Patterson’s apartment over the next five hours.

When police arrived, Seabrooks, 31 — a local anti-violence officer who family and friends say has devoted his life to helping people in crisis — became increasingly paranoid, newly released audio and video recordings show.

Locked in the bathroom, he calls authorities in neighboring towns, telling them the Paterson police are holding him hostage. He lit a fire and cut himself with a knife, moaning in pain, records show. He texted friends and colleagues and asked to see his mother. He also told police he had a gun and threatened to kill himself and take an officer with him.

Outside, the police tried to negotiate with Seabrooks behind an unbreakable shield, alternately begging, persuading and ordering him to come out.

“Nobody’s going to shoot you,” one officer told him at one point. “Leave the knives.”

But Seabrooks jumped out of the bathroom moments later, walking into body-worn camera footage for a split second before police shot him dead. He had a knife in his hand, authorities said.

The incident has roiled New Jersey’s third-largest city, where family and social justice groups are calling for a federal civil rights investigation and reform of how police respond to mental health crises. Members of the Paterson Healing Collective, where Seabrooks worked, say they were turned away at the scene when they responded to Seabrooks’ pleas. And a trained psychiatric team was on hand at St. Joseph’s Medical Center but never received the call, the hospital’s executive director said.

The release of footage nearly two weeks later provides the most complete picture yet of what happened that morning, an hours-long ordeal that went back and forth between tense standoff and casual conversation as police at the scene tried to negotiate a 7:00 end: 43 in the morning until shots rang out at 12:35 p.m.

The video, partially redacted and edited from the body cameras of seven police officers at the scene, gives only brief glimpses of Seabrooks removing his clothes and turning on a faucet while hiding in the bathroom, authorities said.

It shows more than a dozen officers at the crime scene — from constables to wardens, an emergency negotiator and a SWAT team — talking to Seabrooks through a locked and barricaded door.


It started with the first call to 911 at 7:43 am

“I need help, bad,” Seabrooks told the dispatcher.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

A hushed-sounding Seabrooks explained that he “received a lot of death threats and I think there are people waiting for me when I come out.”

“Who is threatening you?” – asked the dispatcher.

“People,” he said.

A body camera photo shows Naji Seabrooks peeking out of a bathroom during a standoff with police.

When police arrived, a family member said Seabrooks was “hallucinating” and believed someone was chasing him. The man said Seabrooks only smoked marijuana, but speculated it could be “bad stuff” that was tainted.

“He never acts like this,” said his mother, Melissa Carter, as other family members shuffled around the small apartment. “I’ve never seen him.”

An officer approached the locked bathroom and asked Seabrooks if he was ready to talk. Seabrooks told him to “get a cop.”

“We’re the cops,” the officer said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Seabrooks replied. He asked for Sgt.

Eventually, Seabrooks’ mother came to the door, asking him for his car keys. He had parked in a no-parking zone, she explained calmly, and had to move him, an obvious attempt to make him up. But he didn’t open the door.

“Why are you doing this Naji?” his mother asked him with pain in her voice.

“Why are they you all doing that?” he shot back.

“I am your mother,” she replied and began to cry. “Naji, stop, I am your mother. Open this door.

On the other side, Seabrooks turned to his phone for help.

Seemingly convinced that the police were holding him hostage, he called authorities in neighboring towns.

“There’s a lot of people trying to hurt me right now,” he told a dispatcher in nearby Fairfield.

“So I’m calling you so you can come here because the Paterson police are picking up every call I make.”

During the standoff, police brought Seabrook’s uncle, a retired police officer, to the crime scene, who repeatedly urged him to surrender, promising that if he did, the first person he could talk to would be his mother.

An officer gave Seabrooks his uncle’s identification, as well as the officer’s own ID, under the promise that Seabrooks would surrender.

“Your mother is in tears,” one police officer told Seabrooks. “She doesn’t know what’s going to happen. She is afraid. You should go out to reassure her that you’re okay.

But Seabrooks didn’t come out, and soon after around 10:15 a.m., sounds of rushing water were heard as Seabrooks flooded the apartment’s bathroom.

At another point, he lit a fire, the orange glow visible on the officers’ body cameras as they kept their distance and continued their negotiations. In another, he “threw an unknown liquid” in an officer’s face.

The attorney general’s office said officers at various points in the ordeal fired “less-than-lethal sponge rounds,” some of which struck Seabrooks, “but were not effective in subduing him.”

“You keep shooting me,” he yelled at them.

In turns, he seemed to believe the police were there to help or hurt him.

“I’m here to help you,” a Seabrooks police officer said in one of several similar exchanges.

“You’re trying to kill me,” Seabrooks replied.

Members of Black Lives Matter Paterson and other community activists hold a rally for Najee Seabrooks before a council meeting at City Hall in Paterson on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.


By 12:30 p.m., police spoke again with Seabrooks, who told them he wanted to see his mother. But it seems he still doesn’t trust the police.

“Naj, come on man, let’s take you to your mother. Let her talk to you. I’m sure she doesn’t want to see you like this,” said one of the officers.

Seabrooks did not answer. Instead, the video shows, he jumped out of the bathroom and lunged at officers as an officer yelled “let him go!”

Two members of the Paterson Emergency Response Team, Officer Anzore Tsai and Officer Jose Hernandez, fired the fatal shots, authorities said.

At a news conference just before the footage was released, friends and supporters of Seabrooks said the incident was traumatic and the video would be difficult to watch.

“It’s very troubling,” Yannick Wood, director of criminal justice reform at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said at a news conference calling for a federal review of Paterson police.

“But this is a mental health crisis.”

Authorities said crisis intervention experts at the scene, including one of Seabrooks’ mentors at the Paterson Healing Collective, were denied access to Seabrooks “due to safety concerns, in light of the fact that Mr. Seabrooks had knives and claimed to have a gun.”

Seabrooks’ colleagues insisted that if they had been allowed to intervene, he might still be alive today.

“I don’t want to hear when the video comes out trying to nitpick and trying to make excuses for what happened,” said Casey Melvin, a co-worker who said he was brought back to the scene.

“There is no excuse.”

NJ Advance Media staff writers Riley Yates, Rebecca Everett, Keith Sargent, Dicey Calavia-Robertson, Kevin Shay, Deion Johnson, Richard Cowan and Chris Sheldon contributed to this report.

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