New York Police Detective Sophia Mason said officers were responding to a 911 call about a man with a gun when they went to the home of George Zapantis, 29. Once there, police say they found Zapantis holding a sword and “refusing to comply with officers’ directives,” according to Mason.
Mason said Zapantis approached officers with sword in hand, at which point police surprised him with a Taser.
“According to police, there was a confrontation at the door,” George Vomvolakis, an attorney for the Zapantis family, told CNN on Wednesday.
The lawyer said this should have been known at the local compound, since calls to the Zapantis department have been answered in the past.
“They knew there was an emotionally disturbed person in this direction,” said Vomvolakis. “They should have sent appropriate personnel, and they didn’t.”
CNN has reached out to NYPD for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
Vomvolakis said Zapantis lived in the apartment with his disabled mother and sister, who were outside the department when police arrived.
According to Vomvolakis, a third party called the police after an argument between Zapantis and his upstairs neighbor regarding a flood light in the backyard: the neighbor removed it and Zapantis turned it on.
Although the couple were screaming, Vomvolakis said, “When the police arrived, the discussion was over.”
CNN was unable to reach out to Zapantis’ upstairs neighbor for comment.
Vomvolakis shared with CNN a series of three short videos that he says were taken by an upstairs neighbor. It is unclear whether the neighbor cut them off or not, something CNN is working to confirm.
In the first clip, six officers can be seen in a narrow alley around a side door. Zapantis is at the door, partially hidden from view by officers, and a protruding roof. He is wearing a white T-shirt and there are no visible weapons.
“Put your hands behind your back and stop, do you understand me?” an officer seen in one of the video clips yells.
Another video clip shows two officers holding their yellow Tasers and one appears to have been shot, his electrode cables stretched in Zapantis’ direction. Several officers can be heard yelling, “Get down, drop to the ground.”
One of the officers in a video clip says, “You’re going to get Tasered again if you don’t get off.”
“Hit him again!” an officer says almost immediately.
“Drop to the ground!”
There is a popping sound when a second Taser is fired. Zapantis groans and swears before saying “Help! Help! Help!”
“Put your hands behind your back,” shouts an officer.
The last video clip ends before the match ends.
The upstairs neighbor Zapantis was arguing with told Vomvolakis that the neighbors repeatedly yelled at the police that Zapantis suffered from mental health problems. But the sound of them screaming cannot be heard in the video. It is unclear whether his alleged warnings occurred before or after the capture of the video clips.
Police said Wednesday that Zapantis was “subjected and suffered a medical condition / cardiac arrest.”
EMS took Zapantis to a hospital in Queens, where he was pronounced deceased, Mason, the detective said.
CNN has reached out to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Queens for comment.
“They should never have sent regular police,” said Vomvolakis on Wednesday. “The system failed him.”
“This could have been de-escalated,” he continued. “If they thought their lives were in danger enough to use deadly force because he had a samurai sword, they should have used their weapons. The fact that they used their Tasers means that they were just trying to control the situation more easily.”
Mason said the incident is being investigated by the department’s Force Investigation Division.