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A community and family in Upstate New York are seeking answers after an unarmed, mentally ill African American man died after he was shocked with a Taser during a confrontation with three police officers in Albany on Thursday.
Donald Ivy, who family members say was a diagnosed schizophrenic, was walking in downtown Albany around 12:30 am when the police stopped him for what they've called "suspicious activity." Police said that he was acting aggressive toward the officers, who have been named as Michael Mahany, Joshua Sears and Charles Skinkle, and this resulted in a brief foot chase and led to the policemen tasing him, a police spokesperson said.
Police said that the initial taser shocks did not have any effect on Ivy, and he continued to act violent and resist the officers. Approximately 11 minutes after the incident began, Ivy reportedly began to lose consciousness. He was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital, where he was later pronounced died.
Acting Police Chief Brendan Cox told reporters that the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
"We know it was based on suspicious activity at this point, but we still need to in our investigation find out exactly what that activity was," he said.
"They wound up finally getting him in custody. Unfortunately, they recognized that he had gone into a medical emergency. They were able to take handcuffs off of him. They immediately started CPR," Cox said.
Ivy was unarmed, the police official said. The three officers have since been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation unfolds.
"I would ask that no one jump to any conclusions," Cox said. "We've always tried to be transparent. We've always tried to make sure that we did the right thing, and that's what we're going to do here. There's certainly nothing pointing to excessive force at this time, but we need to do an investigation."
Community members plan to hold a rally at Albany Police Station's South Station to demand justice for Cox on Friday night.
Ivy's family said that when they viewed his body, there were bruises across his head and body. It's not clear how many times the police shocked Ivy with the taser, and police are still waiting for the autopsy report and the toxicology results in order to determine if Ivy had any drugs or alcohol in his system.
Celinda Okwuosa, Ivy's aunt, told Time Warner Cable News that Ivy was a paranoid schizophrenic.
"My nephew is mentally ill. He has been for a number of years," Okwuosa said.
Ivy's sister Aneisha Johnson noted that despite his illness, he mostly kept to himself and didn't have the tendency to act aggressively.
"It wasn't like he had issues where he was just out here being a menace or anything. The extent of his illness was that he kept to himself. He'd go out, get a couple smokes, and come home," Johnson said.
Cox is backing his police department and hopes that this encounter will continue to increase transparency between the community and the police.
"I think they know that we'll do a thorough job on the investigation," he said. "I think they know we're going to be transparent with what we find out. I think they trust this police department. I think we have built that relationship up for a number of years. I think we've tried to make sure that everybody knows what's going on so, that way, we don't have those kinds of things happen."
Police nationwide have faced scrutiny for their use of deadly force, especially toward the mentally ill. Ivy's family is questioning the fatal actions of Albany police, since they believe Ivy's illness was apparent.
"They would have known that he was mentally ill," Okwuosa said. "And they would have dealt with it from that perspective. Which they did not, and as a result, I had to see my nephew in the morgue today."