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'Please don't shoot': Girlfriend of man fatally shot by Pittsfield police alleges race was a factor

A Pittsfield, Mass., police cruiser.
Conor Berry
The Republican / MassLive.com
A Pittsfield, Mass., police cruiser.

The partner of a Pittsfield man who was shot by police on Friday said race was a factor in the shooting. The man was in a mental health crisis when police were called.

Daneya Falwell said the first time police arrived Friday night, Miguel Estrella had been cutting his face. According to Falwell, police said they were supposed to take him into custody, but instead left him in her care. Falwell is 19 years old.

She said she called police again that night when Estrella tried to stab himself in the stomach. When the police returned, she said her boyfriend had a knife in his hand. Falwell said the police tried to use Tasers, to no effect. Then, she said they pulled out guns.

“Then I’m like, ‘Please don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot. If you’re going to shoot, shoot below.’" recalled Falwell. "Because he wasn’t doing nothing to them. He was only trying to hurt himself."

After the shooting, according to the Berkshire District Attorney's office, the officers attempted "lifesaving aid." He was transported to the Berkshire Medical Center where he died.

Falwell said if Estrella, who was Dominican, had been white, she believes police would have given him more time to calm down.

A statement released Saturday by the Pittsfield Police said Estrella had the knife and "advanced on the officers." The police have not responded to requests for further comment. The DA is investigating the shooting along with State Police.

A wake for Estrella is planned for Friday afternoon.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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