BROOKLYN — Every time Sheina Banatte walks by the intersection of Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway, she will remember her cousin Eudes Pierre. It’s close to where police officers killed the 26-year-old, five days before Christmas last year.
But the tragedy isn’t all that will trigger the memory. Soon, Banatte will also see her cousin’s name on the street signs at the busy intersection that serves as a commuter hub for thousands going daily to and from outer Brooklyn via subway train, bus, dollar vans, and taxis. The New York City Council voted earlier this month to rename the intersection Eudes Pierre Way after the Haitian-American Crown Heights resident.
Councilmember Crystal Hudson, who represents City Council District 35, in which the intersection falls, co-sponsored the bill as a way for the family to create a memorial for Pierre.
The intersection is only half a block from Pierre’s long-time home, but also from where he was killed. Another 77 locations throughout the city are also being renamed as part of the bill package.
“We just were trying to find a way to bring some peace and some love there,” said Banatte. “That’s where he grew up. [Not] just the place where he was murdered.”
Mental health crisis response needs highlighted
On Dec. 20, 2021, Pierre called 911 to report the presence of a man with a gun and knife, according to news reports. When NYPD officers arrived, they found Pierre with a knife and his hand in his pocket. He then ran to the nearby subway station, and police chased him.
Officers’ body cam footage, released by the State Attorney General’s Office, apparently shows Pierre running towards a police officer on Eastern Parkway, after leaving the Utica Avenue train station. Officers fired to stop Pierre’s advance, striking him 10 times.
The NYPD classified the killing as “suicide-by-cop,” according to news reports, referring to the description used when a person calls 911 on themselves to provoke a lethal reaction from the police.
Pierre’s family disputes the killing’s characterization, aware that in the past, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had attempted to commit suicide. They are pushing for alternatives in how the NYPD engages people facing mental health crises.
Pierre’s killing has renewed a push citywide to have trained professionals in mental health crises accompany NYPD officers
According to the Correct Crisis Intervention Today NYC Coalition, the NYPD has killed 26 individuals facing a mental health emergency since 2007, when they started keeping statistics. Pierre was the latest victim.
“We just wanted to change that narrative, because we found out that this happened to 25 other people,” said Banatte. “If they had corrected this before, it wouldn’t have happened to Eudes. We just wanted to make sure that this really doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Pierre’s killing has renewed a push citywide to have trained professionals in mental health crises accompany NYPD officers during such cases. A resulting change.org petition has more than 16,000 signatures calling for enacting The Eudes Pierre Law.
Herbert Dubique, a childhood friend of Pierre, organized the petition for the city law. It “would require that, when a call is placed and received by the 911 operator, they are required to ask ‘if the person is having a mental health crisis?’” Once the 911 operator determines that it is a Mental Health Emergency, mental health specialists would be the first line deployed to help.
The bill renaming the intersection of Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway came fairly quickly for the Pierre family.
“We’ve just been kind of persistent,” said Banatte. “We’ve done all the work, put in so much time, and had so much support. We did expect it in a way, but it was just that it happened so fast and that it actually happened. It’s like we’re being heard, and we’re being seen.”
An earlier version of this article was published in the Haitian Times.