The branch of the Pennsylvania state police that handles potential bias or hate crimes is helping investigate the fatal police shooting of a State College man this week.
State police Sgt. William Slaton, a commander within the Equality and Inclusion Office, was among dozens who attended a candlelight vigil Thursday at the Allen Street gates to mourn Osaze Osagie.
Borough police were trying to serve a mental health warrant Wednesday on Osagie, 29, at the Marvin Garden apartment complex on Old Boalsburg Road when an officer fatally opened fire, state police said in a court filing. The shooting happened as Osagie brandished a knife and confronted officers, according to the filing.
“With this investigation, I just want to reassure the community that I am going to be taking a look at the investigation to make sure everything was conducted thoroughly,” Slaton told reporters amid the evening vigil. “We handle incidents similar to this quite often for local police departments that request our assistance.”
The office met with community leaders Wednesday night. Slaton plans to review the investigation in conjunction with state police investigators, he said.
Osagie was black, and Slaton said he understands African-Americans who don’t feel safe.
“That’s understandable based on what’s going on in America, but you can’t associate every incident just because it has a white versus a black person with every type of hateful incident in America,” Slaton said. “I would encourage them to wait until the investigation takes its course before you form an opinion on what occurred. Don’t just take things at face value.”
Slaton pledged transparency throughout the investigation, which he said has the full resources of the state police.
“We’re expending every resource possible for this investigation,” Slaton said. “Right now, I’m currently dedicated to Pittsburgh for the former (East Pittsburgh) police officer Michael Rosfeld trial. They told me what was going on out here; I dropped what I was doing and drove almost three hours to get out here. So that’s how much of a priority it is for us. This is very important for us.”
Rosfeld, 30, is on trial this week in the shooting death last summer of Antwon Rose II, 17, who was black, just outside Pittsburgh.
Seven local groups, including Penn State’s Student Black Caucus, organized the roughly 30-minute vigil in downtown State College. Caucus President Danieltta Pantoe said the main goal of the event was remembrance.
“Just remembrance of his (Osagie’s) life,” Pantoe said. “And also remembrance of the reason that he was killed and the manner in which he was killed. Having solidarity with the family in this time.”
Several attendees displayed signs that said “#BlackLivesMatter.” Pantoe reiterated that sentiment, arguing the State College incident is a representation of the larger issue throughout the nation.
Former State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said the incident “broke her heart.”
“It has really touched the heart of our whole community,” Goreham said. “I hate to have a young black man killed by an officer here. I feel so sad for everybody.”
Daniel Florencio, a 2012 Penn State graduate who now lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said he graduated from State High with Osagie in 2007.
“He was a really nice guy,” Florencio wrote in an email. “Shy, soft-spoken and always kind and friendly in my interactions. This is a tragedy, he was a good soul.”
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine and Assistant Borough Manager of Public Safety Tom King both declined comment.
The involved borough officers were placed on administrative leave — in line with borough police policy — pending the outcome of the investigation, Gardner said.
Reporter Sarah Paez contributed.