The Wildflower Alliance stands in solidarity and support of the family and community of Miguel Estrella, 22, who was killed by Pittsfield police on Friday.
Witnesses say that just before being tased twice and then shot, Miguel was walking slowly, non threateningly, toward police officers holding a knife. A little earlier, officers had confronted Miguel and taken away a different knife he had used to harm himself. Miguel’s friends and family were begging the cops not to shoot him and to get him mental health support instead.
Apparently the local Brien Center clinician whose job it is to deescalate such situations had just ended their shift and probably wouldn’t have made it there anyway. This tragedy comes less than three months after an all too similar police killing of Orlando Taylor, 23, in Springfield.
Miguel loved, and was loved by, his community on the West Side of Pittsfield and worked extensively building homes with Habitat for Humanity. WAMC, Berkshire Public Radio, published an excellent report on Miguel’s life and the killing, which we recommend reading.
These horrible tragedies are some of the most extreme examples of why our society badly needs to rethink and restructure our response to crisis situations, especially those involving young black and brown men who are harmed by police far more than other members of the community. For instance, the morning before Miguel’s killing, police spent several hours deescalating a situation involving a White Pittsfield resident armed with a crossbow and threatening officers, without shooting him.
Police officers carrying deadly weapons are simply not the correct people to be responding to folks in extreme distress. Even in situations where they do not kill someone, the aggressive, controlling, and violent approach of police often makes things worse; contributing to physical harm, jail time, court involvement, escalating conflict, and other disruptions that could have been avoided.
We call on Pittsfield and all cities and towns in Western Mass to heed calls to defund and disarm police, and redirect those resources toward community crisis response teams, such as those recently established in Northampton and Amherst, and being advocated for in Springfield.
On behalf of the Wildflower Alliance,