Rochester, N.Y. - “He was a young man who needed help, he needed help,” yelled a man carrying a bull horn. Others carried signs.
The 50 people who rallied in the sunshine at a location where a young man died knew him as Izzy. A 20-year-old man with dreams and plans who was also bi-polar.
“Why did they just have to take out their guns and shoot him like that?” said Barbara Snyder who is a friend of the family.
“They should have got a specialist that knows how to deal with these problems- not the police,” says Yamlin Rivera who lives in the neighborhood. “Some police do not know how to deal with mental health issues."
In 2005, the Rochester Police Department created a unit of specially-trained officers called EDPRT – Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team. The officers deal with despondent, suicidal and emotionally unstable individuals.
The year before EDPRT was formed, RPD officers had to use physical force 52 times responding to mental health arrests. By the next year the use of force had fallen to just 11 times.
EDPRT works, but in the case of 20-year-old Israel “Izzy” Andino it was not deployed.
“The team wasn’t even sent for this incident,” says Tasha Rivera who is Izzy’s cousin. “The team could have talked him down and they weren’t here.”
Israel Andino’s mother told the first officer on the scene her son was bi-polar and off of his medication. Rochester Police also knew something else.
Andino called 911 and told dispatchers he had stabbed his mother and was going to shoot other people.
“It’s not a matter of someone reaching out to us saying ‘oh my son is emotionally disturbed and didn’t take his medicine and we need you help,’" says Chief James Sheppard.
Chief Sheppard says when officers arrived Andino was pacing up and down the street with a long gun. The weapon he says, changed everything and prevented the emotional response team from being deployed.
The chief says officers first tried for 20 minutes to get Andino to drop the gun. Instead he fired and officers returned fire.
“I’m here to ensure that the family has justice. That the death of their son is not clouded over by something that he did wrong,” says Fr. Laurence Tracy of St. Michael’s church, who attended the rally.
“The police chief pre-empted the legal process by justifying what (his officers) have done and there should be no determination until the grand jury makes one,” says Fr. Tracy.
“My integrity is too important to me to taint it by trying to make something look good that isn’t,” says Chief Sheppard adding that there will be a full investigation.
Some of the people attending the rally are skeptical. “People are scared to talk because of everything that’s happening and because we feel we’re going against the police,” says Tasha Rivera.
An emotional Chief Sheppard said he is “very upset” about the community reaction to this shooting in a week where there have been four other homicides.
“The Rochester community needs to understand that by saying nothing about the violence that is going on in the streets you’re condoning it,” he says. “You’re passing the message to shoot each other it’s alright but police can’t do it.”
He says in this case police are being held to a standard that is unacceptable. “Our role is to protect the community. His actions dictated ours and that’s what people fail to see.”