The police-involved death of a Pelham Bay man has sent shock waves through the community.
According to a NYPD spokesman, 45th Precinct police officers responded on Wednesday, November 2 at 5:35 p.m. to a call of an emotionally disturbed man armed with a knife behaving violently at 1840 Mayflower Avenue.
Upon arrival, three uniformed officers and a sergeant were confronted by resident, Ariel Galarza, 49, who allegedly threatened them with an intact glass bottle when they entered his basement apartment inside the multi-family Victorian home.
Sergeant William Melrose, a 13-year veteran, discharged his Taser at Galarza who fell to the floor, but quickly recovered and struggled with officers attempting to restrain him.
Sergeant Melrose then delivered a second Taser jolt by pressing the device directly against Galarza’s body, an approved NYPD tactic called ‘dry stun’.
While in custody, Galarza entered cardiac arrest, however police were able to administer CPR.
Galarza was rushed to Albert Einstein Hospital where he died at 7:22 p.m.
The incident is being investigated by the Force Investigation Division pending determination of Galarza’s cause of death.
The use of the Taser will be included in the Force Investigation Division’s investigation.
A NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner spokeswoman stated Galarza’s cause of death has yet to be determined.
Sergeant Melrose remains on active duty at the precinct.
Bob Beider, 45th Precinct Community Council president, discussed the incident as he opened the monthly meeting on Thursday, November 3 at the Locust Point Civic Center.
He said the incident appeared to be the tragic result of proper police work and that no excessive force had been used.
“Sometimes police do something wrong and a tragedy occurs and sometimes they do something right and a tragedy occurs,” said Beider. “From everything I’ve heard about the incident in our precinct, they did everything right. This is part of what happens when people are confronted and are violent towards police.”
Deputy inspector Danielle Raia, 45th Precinct commanding officer, confirmed published reports stating Galarza had been menacing people in the neighborhood earlier that day.
“I’m shocked that we didn’t get 911 calls prior to that,” she said. “It could have gotten ugly. It could have been a lot worse for the people that he was menacing.”
Raia told residents her officers did a good job responding to the threat.
“Not that it was good because we don’t want to see anyone pass away, but they did what they were supposed to do,” she clarified.
According to neighbors and published reports, Galarza struggled with learning disabilities, a mild form of asthma and suffered a stroke earlier this year.
The makeshift memorial set up next to his home has doubled in size to include a framed photograph of Galarza, candles, poster boards with heartfelt messages, a Puerto Rican flag and flowers.
“You can see how much people here loved and respected Ariel,” said Frank Martinez who paid his respects at the memorial. “He was a very nice person who never got in trouble or was ever violent.”
“He was a very nice young man with a great sense of humor,” shared Manuel Melendez, Galarza’s friend and fellow tenant. “He would invite everyone over for barbecues in his backyard.”
Attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit has opened an investigation into Galarza’s death under the state’s executive order granting Schneiderman the authority to prosecute cases of unarmed civilians who die during confrontations with police.
Additional reporting contributed by Arthur Cusano.