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'My Son Did Not Die in Vain,' Osaze Osagie's Mother Tells Protestors

by on May 08, 2019 8:18 PM

Six hours after Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna announced charges would not be filed against the State College police officers involved in her son's shooting death, Iyun Osagie spoke, sometimes through tears, about justice.

Addressing a crowd of demonstrators gathered at the Allen Street Gates, she quoted Martin Luther King's remarks that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and Isaiah 59:14-19 which speaks of God's justice.

"Osaze's blood was shed in this dear old State College on March 20. But make no mistake, my son did not die in vain," she said. "I stand here and say that I absolutely reject man's justice. The district attorney's idea of justice, based, I suppose, on unjust policies, is untenable."

After an outside investigation conducted by Pennsylvania State Police over more than a month, Cantorna concluded that the use of force was justified when three borough officers went to Osaze Osagie's Old Boalsburg Road apartment to serve a mental health warrant and the 29-year-old rushed at them with a 5-inch steak knife. Cantorna said the officers followed training protocols in a "life or death situation" when one officer deployed a taser that was ineffective and a second fired three shots in quick succession during a confrontation that transpired over less than a minute in a narrow hallway outside Osagie's apartment.

Iyun Osagie said to the demonstrators demanding justice for her son that it was a wrongful death.

"It is a fact: Police making wrong choices cut off my son's life," she said. "They cannot now turn around and exonerate themselves from their own choices. That is unjust."

Photo by Geoff Rushton

Echoing remarks she and Osagie's father made in a statement earlier the day, she said the request for police to help find Osaze and take him to the hospital was "not a request for him to be put in an early grave."

"We have suffered greatly because of this injustice," she said. "I suffer nightmare after nightmare. It is very difficult to sleep. It is very difficult to live. I just want you to know that untold trauma has been brought into our lives."

 

After the demonstrators marched from the gates to the State College Municipal Building, they were joined by the mother of another young black male who was shot and killed by a police.

Michelle Kenney's son, Antwon Rose, was shot in the back and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer last June. The officer was charged and, two days after Osagie's death, was found not guilty.

Kenney said she learned about Osagie's death while she was in Harrisburg advocating for changes to the state's laws on use of force and other aspects of policing. 

"I feel like this is déjà vu for people like me," Kenney said. "We’ve already seen this happen. We’ve already seen this play out and I know what my outcome was. All I can say is don’t give up because I’m not.

Michelle Kenney speaks outside the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton

"If we do not change this use of force law and the other components of this bill, we will be doing this again. If it ever happens again we want there to be consequences. Without changing this use of force law there will never be any."

 

The state police Heritage Affairs Section found no racial bias involved in the shooting of Osagie, according to Sgt. William Slaton. Issues of both race and mental illness have been at the center of community discussions about Osagie's death and continued to be on Wednesday night.

Lorraine Jones, of Central PA Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) said it's critical for people of all races to have "courageous conversations" and to be self-reflective about their views while also teaching their children about interacting with people who are different from them.

"This starts in the home, teaching children how to act with people who are different from them — whether it’s mental illness, or a person of color,"Jones said. "If they don’t start talking about issues of race then they are the police officers behind the gun. It’s so important for white families to have those conversations as early as possible with their children."

Kenney, meanwhile, added that she was honored to be a part of remembering Osaze Osagie and standing with others advocating for change.

"I don’t know anything but to be a mom. As long as you have the characteristics of a parent — a loving one, a concerned one, a supportive one — it’s instinctive to not rest until something changes. It’s all I know," Kenney said. "Everyone keeps telling me I’m strong and all this. I’m not. I’m just Antwon’s mom. But if I can inspire somebody to stand and attempt to make changes so we can eventually make change, I’ll be anywhere."

Lorraine Jones and Michelle Kenney speak to reporters outside the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton

Jones said she believes it is important for those who attended Wednesday night's rally to continue their efforts.

"This has been happening again and again," she said. "If we don’t stand up it’s going to continue to happen. We can’t just come out when it happens to somebody we know. We’ve got to come out for each and every person that is mismanaged by the justice system, that is not taken care of by the justice system. This is not one day and done. We’ve got to come out every single day and send a clear message we are not having it."

Iyun Osagie also urged those in attendance to continue making their voices heard.

"I plead with our community to stick together in opposing that which is blatantly wrong," she said. "Not for us to remain in our political corners but to address evil everywhere we encounter it. The moral force of our conviction should tell us that we must act with all that is in us to bring righteous laws and justice into our land."

Iyun Osagie, left, listens as a speaker discusses the death of her son Osaze. Photo by Geoff Rushton.


A group gathers in prayer following the demonstration outside the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton


Protestors listen to speakers outside the borough building. Photo by Geoff Rushton


Protestors march up Allen Street to the borough building. Photo by Geoff Rushton



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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