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Family of Miguel Estrella issues statement after Berkshire DA says her office won’t prosecute cop who killed him

Elina Estrella.
Josh Landes
/
WAMC
Elina Estrella.

After the Berkshire District Attorney announced she would not prosecute a Pittsfield, Massachusetts police officer involved in a fatal shooting, the victim’s family issued a response Friday.

As WAMC first reported, Andrea Harrington said her investigation found no criminal grounds upon which Officer Nicholas Sondrini could be prosecuted for the killing of 22-year-old Miguel Estrella, who was in a mental health crisis when loved ones called 911 March 25th.

Elina Estrella, Miguel’s sister, addressed reporters at a press conference at the Berkshire DA’s office.

“I cannot help but wonder whether the police should have taken him to the psychiatric ward," she said. "Why wasn't the mental health professional who works with police department there? How can calls for help during a mental health crisis end up in the person needing help getting shot and killed? The calls went out not because Miguel was threatening anyone else or because others were scared for their own safety, but because others were concerned that Miguel was hurting himself.”

Since Estrella’s death, his family has taken part in community calls for police reform and increased investment in mental health resources.

You can read the full statement from the Estrella family here:

“We are feeling so much hurt and pain. But we thank the people in the community for their support, the DA for allowing me to stand up here and speak and the State Police for their findings.

“Miguel died because there’s something wrong with the way that we deal with mental health crises. He was cutting his face with a boxcutter. That’s why the police were called the first time. The person who called 911 said he had been cutting himself and had mental health issues. About the first encounter, I cannot help but wonder whether the police should have taken him to the psychiatric ward. Why wasn’t the mental health professional who works with the police department there? How can calls for help during a mental health crisis end up in the person needing help getting shot and killed? The calls went out, not because Miguel was threatening anyone else or because others were scared for their own safety, but because others were concerned that Miguel was hurting himself. Clearly, this was a mental health crisis.

“Every day, we still think about the what-ifs. What if Miguel had been assisted by a mental health professional who was trained in de-escalation? What if the police had been more proactive in getting Miguel the medical help that he needed that night during the first encounter, even if he denied cutting himself or wanting to hurt himself?

“We need to do better. We need to answer these questions so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Miguel was a kind, big-hearted, complicated son, brother, friend, and more to so many of us. He loved his friends, his family, his girlfriend and his mother very much. Miguel cared about us and about his community. Miguel did work for Habitat for Humanity and encouraged people around him to do better. He had his stumbles but tried to stay positive. Miguel was becoming the change he wanted to see in his community. His loss didn’t just affect his family and friends, it affected his colleagues, his community. This is how we want him to be remembered.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.