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Preliminary Estrella Shooting Report Says Officers Followed Guidelines

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Update: On Thursday, Estrella's family — his sister, Elina Estrella, and his mother, Marisol Estrell — released a statement that they would not be commenting on the Pittsfield Police report but that they "are eagerly awaiting the independent review being conducted by the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office and the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to it."

"We also remain eager to hear details that have not been released that are part of that investigation, including the 911 calls, witness interviews and police reports. Given that the investigation continues, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further," they wrote. 
 
They asked the community and media to respect their privacy.
 
"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. We appreciate all of the many well-wishes and support we continue to receive in this troubling time."
 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A preliminary investigation by the Pittsfield Police Department has found the officers involved in the death of Miguel Estrella to have been in compliance with established guidelines for use of force. 

The Force Investigation Team's report detailed the actions of Officers Christopher Coffey and Nicholas Sondrini on the evening of March 25 and their interactions with Estrella, who was shot and killed by Sondrini after repeated attempts to de-escalate the situation, including the use of TASERs.

The report describes Estrella as intoxicated, threatening a woman with a knife, and refusing to follow the orders of the responding offices.

"Based on a review of the evidence and information available to the Department during the initial call for service to 279 Onota Street, Mr. Estrella did not meet the criteria of a 'person in crisis,'" according to the FIT report.


The preliminary FIT report was released on Wednesday afternoon by Police Chief Michael Wynn. A separate independent criminal investigation of the shooting is being conducted by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office. The results from an autopsy by the Chief Medical Examiner's Office has not been released yet. 

Estrella's death has triggered a significant community response with many demanding better mental health resources for people in crisis. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, members of the community said Estrella's apparent mental health crisis was a "death sentence."

Community members have also called for body cameras on the Pittsfield Police Department.

The preliminary report states that the 22-year-old Estrella was not engaged in any self-harming behavior and made no threats and/or statements of self-harm during the initial call for service. It states that all parties reported that his visible existing injury had occurred earlier in the day.
 
A statement released shortly after the incident said Estrella had an apparent self-inflicted laceration to his face.
 
According to the report, Coffey arrived back at the scene to find Estrella in a "physical altercation" with a third party, was armed with a knife, and was within arm's length of a woman.
 
"Officer Coffey further observed that, at one point, Mr. Estrella moved towards the female with the knife raised in a threatening manner," the report reads. "Officer Coffey assessed the risk to both this female and himself (based on his proximity to Mr. Estrella) as a deadly threat."
 
Coffey reportedly tried to create some distance and calm Estrella but he did not drop the knife, so Coffey discharged a taser that had a minimal effect and did not incapacitate him.  
 
The officer was described as "continuing to verbally engage, create distance, and deploy his taser."
 
Sondrini then arrived on the scene and both officers used their tasers, which were ineffective.
 
"Following Officer Sondrini's TASER [sic] deployment, Mr. Estrella took a fighting stance, raising his fists with a knife in one hand and advanced toward the Officers. Recognizing that Mr. Estrella's continued assaultive behavior, refusal to comply with any verbal commands and failure to respond to de-escalation techniques presented an imminent deadly threat to himself, Officer Coffey, and the female party, Officer Sondrini then transitioned from his TASER to his firearm," the report reads about the moment Estrella was shot.
 
"Both Officers continued to create distance and engage Mr. Estrella verbally, physically restraining the female party from approaching Mr. Estrella, and requesting additional less-lethal options to the scene. Mr. Estrella continued advancing on the Officers until they had reached the middle of Onota Street, and traffic traveled dangerously close to their position. At this point, Mr. Estrella turned and focused his attention on Officer Sondrini. He bladed his body, clenched his fists while still holding the knife, raised them upward, and moved toward Officer Sondrini at a fast pace. Recognizing this eminent deadly threat within a few feet of his position, Officer Sondrini fired 2 rounds from his firearm, striking Mr. Estrella with both rounds. The Officers immediately disarmed Mr. Estrella and rendered medical treatment."
 
According to the preliminary FIT report, Coffey's taser deployment was within use of force guidelines, and Sondrini's taser deployment and subsequent use of his firearm were also in compliance.
 
Initial estimates of the distance officers had retreated between the taser deployments and the shots fired is 120 feet.
 
Wynn convened the FIT on March 26, the day after the shooting, to conduct an administrative inquiry and determine if the uses of force complied with relevant policies and training guidelines.
 
FIT submitted its preliminary report on April 8 and Wynn sent it back on April 14 for additional evaluation requirements contained in the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2020 and the state's Use of Force Regulations.
 
On April 21, the FIT re-submitted its revised preliminary report.
 
Both Coffey and Sondrini had been on administrative leave since March 25; on Wednesday, their status was modified to limited duty. 
 
Coffey has been on the force for four years and Sondrini for nine. Both have received previous commendations for their work. 
 
"This outcome is tragic," the report reads. "The Pittsfield Police Department extends sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Estrella. The Department also recognizes the impact on the Pittsfield community, and extends great effort in: Following established protocols, Navigating unexpected factors, and Complying with new/changing state/national requirements."

FIT Preliminary Report on M... by Tammy Daniels


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City of Pittsfield Enacts Water Usage Restrictions

PITTSFIELD, Mass.  – With a fast-increasing depletion of the water supply at the Pittsfield Cleveland Reservoir, the city of Pittsfield’s Department of Public Services and Utilities has enacted a State of Water Supply Conservation to ensure an adequate supply of water for fire protection and emergency response effective Monday, Aug. 8.
 
The action, which falls under the city’s Stage 2 Drought Management Plan, implements mandatory water restrictions.
 
Restricted activities include outside water use in general, watering lawns and  gardens, washing vehicles, and filling swimming pools. These activities are only permitted before 7  a.m. and after 7 p.m. and are limited to alternate days. Addresses ending in even numbers may water on even days of the month. Addresses ending in odd numbers may water on odd days of the month.
 
These  restrictions will be enforced by the Department of Public Services and Utilities and will include fines for violations. These include a written warning for the first violation; a $50 fine for the second violation; and $300 for subsequent violations.
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