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Berkshire DA asks agencies to accelerate probe of fatal shooting of Miguel Estrella by Pittsfield police

Supporters hold up signs (copy)

Supporters hold signs on North Street in Pittsfield on Sunday as part of a rally in support of Miguel Estrella, who was shot and killed by city police March 25. Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said Tuesday that she has asked agencies to "prioritize" work on an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. 

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said Tuesday she has asked that an investigation into the fatal use of force by Pittsfield police be made a priority by the people conducting it, many of whom are overseen by her office.

“I recognize the community’s urgent need for details, and I’ve requested that the involved agencies prioritize this investigation,” Harrington said in a statement released by her office. “Typically, these types of investigations take four to six months to complete but I am committed to significantly reducing that timeframe without compromising accuracy, thoroughness, or objectivity.”

Miguel Estrella, 22, was shot and killed by a city police officer who responded to a second emergency call at Estrella’s Onota Street apartment building on March 25. Estrella had declined medical assistance during the first call, only minutes before, after intentionally cutting himself with a knife during an apparent mental health crisis. A 911 caller then summoned help again, requesting that Estrella, who family members say suffered from periodic bouts of depression, be transported for care.

An officer shot Estrella after attempts failed to disable him with Tasers, according to a statement the following day from Pittsfield police. Estrella was holding a knife, according to eyewitnesses, and did not heed calls from police to disarm himself. Two unidentified officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting.

An investigation into the fatal use of force is being handled by Harrington’s office.

The District Attorney’s Office also pledged Tuesday to provide the first briefing on the probe’s finding to members of the Estrella family.

“Once the investigation is complete and all evidence is shared with the Estrella family, the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office will make the findings available to the community and the Pittsfield Police Department,” the office said.

Status of probe

As of Tuesday, the State Police Detective Unit that works with the DA’s office has finished interviews with five civilian witnesses, along with five EMTs, and has wrapped up interviews with the Pittsfield police officers involved, according to Harrington’s office.

Marisol Estrella holds a photo of her late son (copy)

Miguel Estrella’s mother, Marisol Estrella, holds up a picture of her late son on North Street in Pittsfield during a march and rally Sunday.

Ahead, state police plan to interview other civilian witnesses who have been identified, the office said. Other possible witnesses to the events at 279 Onota St. in Pittsfield are asked to contact the Berkshire Detective Unit at 413-499-1112.

In the course of their investigation to date, state police have gathered medical records, surveillance video, social media posts, emergency radio transmissions and Pittsfield police reports, among other evidence, the DA’s office said.

It said that the State Police Crime Lab will provide ballistic reports on the guns used by police and will examine the Tasers that officers deployed that night. The office said it is waiting for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to provide a “full” autopsy report.

Harrington said Tuesday she wants all facts revealed by the probe to be made public.

“My priority is that all interested parties have confidence in my office’s determination of the facts surrounding the tragic shooting of Mr. Estrella by the Pittsfield Police Department,” Harrington said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

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Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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