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Family of Miguel Estrella awaits ‘independent’ report into his fatal shooting by Pittsfield police

Elina Estrella.jpg (copy)

Elina Estrella, older sister of Miguel Estrella, spoke to the Pittsfield City Council this week. In a statement Thursday, she and her mother, Marisol Estrella, declined to comment on the release of a Pittsfield Police Department internal "use of force" investigation. That investigation, made public Wednesday, found that an officer acted appropriately in using lethal force against Miguel Estrella on March 25. 

PITTSFIELD — Family members of the man shot and killed March 25 by Pittsfield police say they await an “independent” investigation from the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, hoping for a fuller picture of the Friday night Miguel Estrella lost his life.

On Wednesday, the Pittsfield Police Department released a preliminary finding that the officer who shot Estrella complied with police rules and procedures.

The family declined a request from The Eagle to directly comment on the police department’s report. Instead, the family released a statement Thursday saying that they are “eagerly awaiting the independent review.”

The comments, from Estrella’s older sister, Elina, and mother, Marisol, cited hopes that the DA’s review, still being conducted in coordination with its in-house state police unit, will provide a fuller picture of the circumstances of the shooting.

On that night, Pittsfield police were called twice to Estrella’s address, at 279 Onota St., by 911 reports of a man in distress.

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

Miguel Estrella’s mother, Marisol Estrella, holds a picture of her late son on North Street in Pittsfield during a march and rally April 10.

“We also remain eager to hear details that have not been released that are part of that investigation,” the Estrellas said Thursday, “including the 911 calls, witness interviews and police reports. Given that the investigation continues, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said Wednesday she views the PPD report as “an important first step and understanding what happened that evening,” but declined to comment on its findings, in part because the case is “a potential legal matter.”

Through a spokesman, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington declined Thursday to comment on the preliminary Pittsfield police report.

Spokesman Andy McKeever said the prosecutor’s office is conducting its own investigation into the fatal police shooting. He directed requests for comment about the PPD report back to the police department.

“I’m not sure why we would agree to a media interview to answer questions about another agency’s policies and findings,” McKeever said in an email.

The DA’s investigation remains open, he said. “We request that people who witnessed this event or have information about the shooting [to] contact the Berkshire Detective Unit at 413-499-1112.”

PPD finding

The Pittsfield police Force Investigation Team found that Officer Nicholas Sondrini followed “use of force guidelines” and that Estrella had posed an immediate threat when he reportedly came at an officer “at a fast pace” with a raised knife.

Sondrini fired twice into Estrella’s chest after police say repeated efforts to stop him with less-lethal means failed — and after officers had backed 120 feet away from Estrella, and into Onota Street traffic.

“Recognizing this [imminent] deadly threat within a few feet of his position, Officer Sondrini fired 2 rounds from his firearm, striking Mr. Estrella with both rounds,” the report states.

“On the basis of the preliminary FIT report, Officer Sondrini’s Taser deployment and subsequent use of his firearm in response to a perceived imminent deadly threat is in compliance with all relevant department policies, training guidelines, statutory requirements, and use of force guidelines,” the report says.

Elina and Marisol Estrella said in their statement Thursday that they continue to mourn.

“Our family and loved ones continue to grieve over the tragic loss of our beloved Miguel, who was a kind, caring and compassionate man who loved his family, friends and community,” the Estrellas said in the statement. “We appreciate all of the many well-wishes and support we continue to receive in this troubling time.”

In a statement, the Pittsfield Police Department extended “sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Estrella.”

No release date has been set for the DA’s report, though Harrington has called for work to be expedited.

Harrington said in an interview shortly after the shooting that her office would make available not only its findings into the circumstances of the fatal shooting but documentation gathered during the probe, including forensic reports, 911 call transcripts, witness interviews and video gathered.

“When that investigation is completed, all of the materials that we review will be subject to public records requests and will be available to the public,” Harrington said at the time. “We want this to be a very transparent process.

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

Managing editor for innovation

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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