A mentally disturbed Bronx man died in police custody last night after an NYPD officer used a stun gun to subdue him.
Ariel Galarza, 49, is now the second mentally ill New Yorker the NYPD has used lethal force on in two weeks, after 66-year-old Deborah Danner was fatally shot last month during a dispute in which she was allegedly brandishing a bat and acting “irrational.”
In Galarza’s case, the NYPD says it responded to a call early Wednesday evening on Mayflower Avenue in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx. According to the NYPD, officers were told that a man was acting violently and armed with a knife. When four officers arrived, they report, there was no knife, but the officers were “threatened” with a glass bottle. That’s when a sergeant shot Galarza with a Taser.
Police told the Daily News that Galarza was hit with a Taser once, then “tried to fight with the officers.” Galarza was then Tased again. He then went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at Einstein Hospital at 7:22 p.m.
The NYPD’s Force Investigation Division was looking into the incident to determine whether the NYPD used correct methods for subduing Galarza. The state attorney general’s office was also brought to the scene to investigate the killing, following through with a 2015 executive order by Governor Cuomo allowing the attorney general to decide whether to investigate lethal use-of-force incidents by the NYPD.
Officers were criticized for failing to use nonlethal force when confronting Danner last month. This led to NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announcing that the police had “failed” Danner.
Though D.A. Eric Schneiderman declined to follow through with an independent investigation into her death, investigations by the NYPD and the Bronx D.A.’s office continue. Sergeant Hugh Barry, who fatally shot Danner, has been placed on modified duty and has been stripped of his badge and gun.
Neighbors seemed baffled as to how Galarza could have been considered a threat by the NYPD.
“He was quiet. He’d go to the store and come back. I’d hang out with him all the time. We’d talk about sports, movies. He’d just drink water,” a neighbor told DNAinfo, describing Galarza as a “regular guy.”
The NYPD has made an effort to increase the number of Tasers its officers have been carrying, from 670 in 2014 to at least 1,710 this year.
Between 2001 and 2012, 540 people in the United States were killed by Tasers. A report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board from two weeks ago found that the NYPD has been using the weapons “in response to unruly or obstinate behavior.” The NYPD patrol guide explicitly states that “squaring up to fight” is not grounds for using a Taser, and that a Taser should only be used when there is a serious threat to anyone’s safety and an officer is in threat of being overpowered. Four officers were on hand when Galarza was hit with the Taser.