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How can calls for help end in a person getting killed? Miguel Estrella's sister says he needed help from a mental health professional the night he was shot

Elina Estrella

Elina Estrella, sister of Miguel Estrella, makes a statement Friday at the presentation of findings in the District Attorney’s investigation into the fatal March 25 shooting of Miguel Estrella by a Pittsfield police officer. 

PITTSFIELD — Every day, Elina Estrella and her family think about the what ifs.

What if her brother, Miguel Estrella, who was shot and killed by a Pittsfield police officer on March 25, had been helped by a mental health professional who was trained in de-escalation tactics?

What if police had been more proactive in getting Miguel the medical help that he needed that night when they first approached him? 

Elina Estrella spoke Friday afternoon at a news conference in which Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington announced that Pittsfield Police Officer Nicholas Sondrini would not face criminal charges in the fatal shooting of her brother. 

She held back tears as she read from a statement, saying that Miguel — who was intoxicated and having a mental health crisis when he was shot — should have been taken to a psychiatric ward.

“Miguel died because there’s something wrong with the way that we deal with mental health crises," Elina Estrella said. "He was cutting his face with a box cutter. That’s why the police were called the first time. The person who called 911 said he had been cutting himself and had mental health issues," she said.

People concerned about Miguel that night called 911 because they were worried about his well-being — not because they were afraid for their own safety, Estrella said. 

"How can calls for help during a mental health crisis end up in the person needing help getting shot and killed?" she asked.  

Miguel was a kind, big-hearted person, she said, a "complicated son, brother, friend, and more to so many of us." He cared about his community, did work for Habitat for Humanity and encouraged people around him to do better, Estrella added. 

"He had his stumbles but tried to stay positive," she said. "Miguel was becoming the change he wanted to see in his community. His loss didn’t just affect his family and friends, it affected his colleagues, his community. This is how we want him to be remembered.”

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez can be reached at aalvarez@berkshireeagle.com.

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