‘It wasn’t like he was criminal’: Jamaica woman pushes back on NYPD who broke down door in mental health call

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Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

Jamaica resident Peggy Herrerra claims she got more than she bargained for when she called 911 for medical assistance for her son, who was experiencing a mental health crisis on Aug. 25.

Police arrived her home at 179th Street and 90th Avenue home just after the situation with her son, Justin, 21, had been brought under control. Refusing to let officers from 103rd Precinct into her home, Herrarra said cops broke down her door instead and placed her under arrest.

Herrerra, an organizer with #CLOSERikers, and leaders from VOCAL-NY rallied outside the 103rd Precinct house on Friday demanding that mental health professionals instead of police officers be the first point of contact for residents looking for support with family members.

“The EMT said, ‘We have to make sure he’s OK’ and I said, ‘You see him.’ I’m confused because I didn’t understand why they felt the need to go in; he was calm. He already had the emotional break,” Herrerra said. “It wasn’t like he was criminal. I know the law; they didn’t have a right to – they didn’t have a warrant.”

The Jamaica woman contested that she was calm when a Sergeant Mole ordered her to be brought into custody.

Herrerra said that as a result of her arrest, she spent the night in Central Booking in Kew Gardens with a jail cell that was so dirty it had dried blood on the walls.

She missed two shifts at work because of the arrest.

According to police, Justin was locked in the house with NYPD outside alongside Herrerra, who told them the 21-year-old had been threatening to hurt himself earlier in the day. But when cops and other emergency service officials tried to enter, Herrerra stood in the way.

“A 49-year-old female, who was the aided’s mother and who was standing outside, was unable to gain entry inside and informed the officers that the male inside expressed he wanted to hurt himself earlier in the day,” Detective Annette Shelton said in a statement. “Officers requested Emergency Service Unit and Hostage Negotiation Team to the scene and once officers from ESU arrived, the 49-year-old female stepped in front of the door and began to scream and refused to move and allow officers to perform their lawful duties to provide proper aid with EMS to the male inside. She continued to ignore officers’ orders, and was taken into custody. The male opened the door and was removed to Queens Hospital Center for evaluation.”

Herrerra was charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration, according to NYPD. But Herrerra said the police report placed her under arrest for refusing to cooperate.

VOCAL-NY leader Peter Thomas commented that police officers from the precinct should be more sensitive to issues pertaining to mentally ill members of the public in the current political climate.

“We’re here to demand that police officers never be the first responders to an EDP [emotionally disturbed person]. They’re not trained,” Thomas told an audience of cops standing outside the precinct house. “When you respond to a mental health crisis and you break down doors, and you arrest citizens – citizens who work for the NYPD – on personal nonsense, on cultural bias, it’s not only a wake-up call for the community, it’s a wake-up call for you.”

Vidal Guzman, who is a community organizer with JustLeadership USA, believes there needs to be an investigation into the 103rd Precinct, claiming it has a reputation for violence.

#CLOSERikers is calling on City Council to hold a hearing on creating alternatives to police for mental health calls.