The family of Eudes Pierre, the 26-year-old man shot and killed by police in Crown Heights during an apparent mental health episode last year, filed a lawsuit against the city and the officers that shot him just two days before the intersection where he was killed was named in his honor.
Pierre’s mother, Marguerite Jolivert, filed the suit in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Tuesday against the city and several unnamed police officers. Jolivert alleges wrongful death, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, negligence, and negligent hiring and retention by the New York City Police Department, as well as violations of her son’s civil rights.
Although the officers involved were named when Attorney General Letitia James released body camera footage from the incident, the officers are listed as John Does pending the conclusion of the AG’s investigation into Pierre’s death.
Cops responded to reports of a man armed with a gun and a knife near Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway early on the morning of Dec. 20, 2021. On arrival, they found Pierre holding a kitchen knife in one hand and keeping his other hand in his pocket, as seen in the body camera footage. He fled into a nearby subway station, where police unsuccessfully tried to tase him and repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife.
Officer Conrado Abreu Gerez eventually fired seven rounds at Pierre when he exited the station and ran toward another officer. He was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital shortly after the incident. The NYPD later deemed Pierre’s death a “suicide by cop,” noting that he was not in possession of a gun at the time, had left a suicide note at his family’s home, and that, critically, he had called 911 himself from his cell phone.
The suit alleges that the officers who responded to the call were not properly trained to deal with “emotionally disturbed individuals.” The family’s lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein of Rubenstein & Rynecki, argues that such improper training resulted in Pierre’s wrongful death, noting that Pierre’s death was “not the first time” NYPD officers killed a person suffering from a mental health crisis.
“The real question here is, was excessive force used and was the force necessary under the situation,” Rubenstein told Brooklyn Paper. “The fact of the matter is, there was a 911 call for an emotionally disturbed man. We believe that the result should not have been a wrongful death, and we look forward to presenting the facts with regard to that to the jury.”
Rubenstein said that the family believes it would be “appropriate” for the officers involved to be terminated from the NYPD, but such a prayer for relief was not included in the lawsuit pending the results of the investigation by the Attorney General.
Pierre was working for Uber Eats at the time of his death, having taken a break from the College of Staten Island, where he played basketball as a forward, a few credits shy of graduation.
On Oct. 20, local politicians and Pierre’s family gathered on the southwest corner of Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue to unveil “Eudes Pierre Way” and honor the life of a Brooklynite taken before his time.
“Eudes Pierre’s death could have been prevented,” said Crown Heights councilmember Crystal Hudson at the street co-naming ceremony on Thursday morning. “Suffering from a mental health crisis, Eudes needed the help of specially trained professionals. With today’s co-naming it’s my hope that our entire community holds his memory close and works toward achieving alternative solutions to our failed overreliance on the NYPD to address mental health crises.”
Pierre was “more than a victim,” said local Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham, but “a life we failed to nurture” with a lack of accessible mental health resources. The pol said Pierre represents the work the community and politicians still have to do to unify communities and find safe, “collective” solutions for vulnerable people in crisis.
Pierre’s death led to increased attention towards the NYPD’s interactions with people under mental duress. Following the fatal shooting, over 16,000 people signed a petition calling for the city to adopt the “Eudes Pierre Law,” which would require mental health professionals be dispatched to all 911 calls involving people undergoing a mental health crisis.
In April of this year, Mayor Eric Adams announced the expansion of a Harlem-based pilot program dispatching mental health first responders to 911 calls involving emotionally disturbed persons to Central Brooklyn, the area where Pierre was killed.
“Thurgood Marshall once said, ‘In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute,'” said family member Sheina Banatte. “Ten months ago, many met us in our pain, and we asked you to journey with us through our purpose. The co-naming of Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue to ‘Eudes Pierre Way is one of many phases of our #JusticeforEudes initiatives to honor a wonderful man’s legacy and advocate for communities who ache for healing through awareness and reform.”