The family of the Bronx man who died after being Tased by police met with the state attorney general’s office for about an hour on Wednesday.
Ariel Galarza, 49, was killed on Nov. 2 when police responded to a call of an emotionally disturbed person with a knife — which turned out to be a hot sauce bottle.
Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office took over the investigation, invoking an executive order that gives him the ability to take over cases in which an unarmed civilian is killed by a law enforcement officer.
The first time Galarza was Tased, he was a distance from the sergeant, identified as William Melrose, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said. He had dropped the hot sauce bottle before he was struck a second time, the source said.
“When I first heard about the whole situation, I knew that something was wrong from the very beginning because my brother was never, ever a violent person,” said Galarza’s sister, Jeanette Galarza, 46. “I knew something went wrong in that picture. My brother was very loving, caring, he touched everybody’s path he crossed.”
Mildred Galarza, 48, another sister, said the neighbor who called police that night has since apologized. She said her brother worked as a chef.
“She told me it was a huge mistake that she called 911,” she said. “She said she loved my brother and that she wanted help, that’s all she wanted, help for my brother.”
The NYPD said in an email the department “will cooperate with any official investigation into this matter.” Melrose was placed on modified duty following the incident.
Sanford Rubenstein, who is representing Galarza’s family, said his death sheds light on the need for more training in the use ofTasers.
“Perhaps the NYPD has to review its training so we don’t have another tragedy like this one in the city,” Rubenstein said.
The case comes just weeks after a sergeant fatally shot Deborah Danner, rather than deploy his Taser, after responding to a call of an emotionally disturbed person.
Danner, 66, was shot on Oct. 18 after she tried to hit a sergeant with a baseball bat inside her Castle Hill apartment, police said.
Schneiderman determined that Danner’s case didn’t fall under his jurisdiction.
But the Galarza case is very different from the Danner case, the law enforcement source said.
“Danner was very close and he was not at all,” the source said, adding that “an unbroken hot sauce bottle is very different than a baseball bat.”