By David Brand
Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities are taking the NYPD to court in order to access body cam footage of the September 2018 shooting death of a Maspeth woman with mental illness.
The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s Disability Justice Program has sued the NYPD in Manhattan Supreme Court to obtain the video, which would show the events leading up to the moment officers shot and killed Susan Muller, 54, insider her home.
Muller, who had a long history of mental illness, had called 911 to report a robbery. The officers who arrived at her home were reportedly unaware of her mental health issues and shot her when she allegedly approached them with a knife.
The NYPD denied NYLPI’s Freedom of Information Law request for audio and video files of the incident, prompting the lawsuit, said Disability Justice Program Director Ruth Lowenkron.
“We should not have to take the NYPD to court repeatedly to confirm the public’s right under New York’s Freedom of Information Law to view body-worn camera footage of tragic incidents where people with disabilities who call 911 are shot by police officers,” Lowenkron said in a statement.
Lowenkron said the organization is demanding that trained mental health professionals respond to incidents involving people with mental illness — not just cops.
‘We’re going one step forward and using this as part of the advocacy to show police are the wrong entity to respond to mental health crises,” she told the Eagle. "These are mental health issues and should be responded to by mental health professionals.”
"This is not a criminal justice issue that [police] are fully qualified to handle,” she added.
Lowenkron likened the tragic incident to the fatal police shooting of Miguel Richards, a Bronx man with mental illness who cops killed inside his apartment in 2017.
NYLPI successfully sued to obtain officers’ body camera footage of that shooting in Sept. 2017.
The NYPD did not respond to request for comment as of press time.