Penn State

Penn State commits to creating a ‘safer, more inclusive environment’ in wake of Osagie report

Centre County DA’s report details findings of officer-involved shooting investigation

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna gives a detailed report of the investigation into the officer involved shooting on March 20, 2019 that killed 29-year-old Osaze Osagie.
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Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna gives a detailed report of the investigation into the officer involved shooting on March 20, 2019 that killed 29-year-old Osaze Osagie.

In the wake of the Wednesday release of the district attorney’s investigative report into the State College police-involved shooting of Osaze Osagie, Penn State affirmed its commitment to working with the borough to create a “safer and more inclusive environment.”

“University officials know that members of our community have been profoundly impacted by this heartbreaking matter, which has heightened concerns among some for safety,” Penn State said in a release.

As part of that commitment, the university pledged to appoint representatives to participate in the working group the borough is convening to examine issues of race and mental health in policing, and to be a “key partner” in helping to shape the efforts of that group.

The intent to form a task force specifically aimed at addressing issues of mental health services in Centre County, as well as inclusion, equity and diversity, was first announced by Borough Council at its April 15 meeting.

The group will build off of the work started by Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color convened by borough Manager Tom Fountaine and Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray in August 2015 to help strengthen the relationship between the borough and Penn State police departments and minority communities.

Among recommendations made by the task force were to increase the recruitment and retention of employees of color in the police departments, and to provide consistent and ongoing diversity education to Penn State students, community members and police departments.

Osagie, a 29-year-old African American man who was diagnosed with autism and had a history of anxiety and schizophrenia, was shot and killed on March 20 in his Old Boalsburg Road apartment when he confronted three State College police officers with a knife as they attempted to serve a mental health warrant.

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna’s report on state police’s investigation into the shooting determined that the use of deadly force was justified, and that racial bias did not play a role in that response.

At the end of his report, Cantorna called for reform in the state mental health system, and recommended the creation of a task force to address how to best process mental health warrants, and to consider whether changes to the state’s mental health commitment law should be made.

Penn State provided the following resources for anyone — faculty, staff or students — seeking assistance or support:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services are available for students at all Penn State campuses.
  • The Penn State Employee Assistance Program, through HealthAdvocate, offers short-term counseling from licensed professionals by phone, email or in person for faculty and staff. The sessions are confidential, and can be set up by calling 866-799-2728.
  • The Penn State Crisis Line at 877-229-64000 is a 24/7 toll-free service staffed by licensed professionals and available to all Penn State students, faculty and staff.
  • Community members can access the Crisis Line by texting LIONS to 741741.
  • In the case of a critical incident that requires immediate on-site assistance, supervisors should call the toll-free number directly or contact their human resources or strategic partner for assistance.
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