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Estrella’s family demands answers, justice at Pittsfield rally: “He was in crisis, and instead he was met with violence”

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Josh Landes
/
WAMC
Corey Johnson, brother of Miguel Estrella, holds a megaphone on the steps of Pittsfield city hall.

The family of a Pittsfield, Massachusetts man shot to death by police last month demanded answers and justice at a downtown march and rally Sunday afternoon.

22-year-old Miguel Estrella died after being shot by a Pittsfield Police officer on the night of March 25th after 911 was called in response to a mental health crisis. Details of the incident remain vague. Community members dispute the police account. The investigation is in the hands of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington, who has pledged to conduct a thorough, transparent probe while warning findings could be months away. The Pittsfield Police Department has deferred all questions about the shooting to Harrington’s office.

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Josh Landes
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WAMC
Miguel Estrella's mother and sister Marisol and Elina lead the "Justice For Miguel" march through downtown Pittsfield.

On Sunday, Estrella’s family spoke to supporters at a “Justice For Miguel” march through downtown Pittsfield. The first stop was on the steps of city hall.

“For everybody in the police station, everybody in the [DA’s office], everybody in America, period: What the fuck do you want from us? Trayvon Martin, George Floyd. The list goes on and on and on and on, and we're not getting any type of justice. And I'm sick of this shit," said brother Corey Johnson. “Miguel didn’t need guns. He needed help. Miguel didn't need the police. He just needed help. Anybody from the fire station could have just sat down and had a conversation, but instead you sent guns and crooked ass officers. Justice for Miguel!”

As grieving friends and co-workers told WAMC after the killing, Estrella was a beloved community member who dreamed of becoming an electrician.

“How crazy is it that Miguel was deeply involved in your community, in our community," said Johnson. "Working for Habitat for Humanity. His mother feeding the homeless. He got killed by the police? Justice for Miguel.”

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Josh Landes
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WAMC
Miguel Estrella's family in Park Square.

At the march’s final stop in Park Square, more of Estrella’s family addressed the crowd in the shadow of the Civil War monument in the city center.

“It makes me happy to see that Miguel touched so many, made so many laugh and just was there for everyone when they couldn't be there for themselves," said sister Elina Estrella. “Overall, we just want answers. Was protocol followed in Miguel's case? Today we're focused on honoring the life of a son, brother and friend who was committed to helping the community. We need change so that a tragedy like this doesn't happen again in our community, our state or our nation.”

The drama of the afternoon was mirrored by the mercurial New England spring, with the sun occasionally breaking through the thick gray clouds with intermittent bursts of snow and hail.

“Miguel is definitely seeing the amount of love and unity we have created," continued Elina Estrella. "He did make it snow on us, somehow, for whatever reason. He knew we were cold, so he stopped. We thank you, I thank you. Words cannot describe how grateful and appreciative we are of all of you. Long live Miguel, forever in our hearts to infinity and beyond. I have nothing else I can say, because I will- It's still a shock. But again, I thank you and I know that we're going to turn this into a positive. We're going to demand change, and we're going to make it happen. May this be the last tragedy to happen in our community, our state, in our nation. Thank you.”

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Josh Landes
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WAMC
Anaelisa Jacobsen and Marisol Estrella.

The event closed with words from Estrella’s mother, Marisol Estrella. Anaelisa Jacobsen of the Manos Unidas Multicultural Educational Cooperative interpreted.

“Miguel is, and I mean is because he lives in our hearts, Miguel is a marvelous person," said Marisol Estrella. "He is joy. He always gave me hope when he came to our house with a smile. And here I am, asking for justice. Justice! The question is, what happened to Miguel on the 25th of March? I want an answer. He asked for help and he didn't get help. I want an answer. He was a youth like, so many of our youth, who just asked for help. He was in crisis. And instead he was met with violence. I'm one of so many mothers who's been through this, and we're not going to do this again. Justice for Miguel! Because beyond being a mother, I've worked for this community. We're just one family, and together we will make the strength! Justice for Miguel! No more injustice. No more deaths for youths who are in crisis. No more tolerance for this injustice. Together, we will make strength. Blessings to everyone, and thank you for the support. Justice For Miguel!”

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.
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