Events Planned to Remember Osaze Osagie 5 Years After Fatal Police Shooting

Community groups and family members will hold several events over the next week to remember Osaze Osagie five years after he was shot and killed by a State College police officer who was serving a mental health warrant.


Osagie’s parents, Sylvester and Iyun, will hold a scholarship fundraiser dinner from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at State College Access Church, 3601 S. Atherton St. The fundraiser will support the Osaze’s Heart Scholarship, which was established by a group of community leaders and is awarded annually to racially underrepresented high school students with a commitment to community service at State College Area High School.

“Being able to support State College High School students with college scholarships in memory of our son has been a tremendous source of blessing and encouragement to my family,” Sylvester Osagie said in a statement.

The event, which is open to all, “is going to be all about family, food and fun,” Iyun Osagie said. It will be an opportunity for the Osagies to “to celebrate the legacy of their son… and to express their appreciation for the support extended to them by the State College community, the Centre Region community and numerous churches in the area.”

In addition to a dinner prepared by church volunteers, the fundraiser will include arts and crafts, games for children and raffles. Meal preorders are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome.

“Every tragic event offers a unique opportunity to sow division or nurture unity,” Access Church Pastor Zac McDonald said. “Over the last five years, I’ve seen countless individuals joining forces, listening attentively, and extending prayers for one another. Ultimately, it’s frequently through the combined power of prayer and people’s support that God heals the anguish in human hearts.”


The 3/20 Coalition, the advocacy group formed in the wake of Osagie’s death, will host a “Remembering Osaze Gathering” at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 — the fifth anniversary of the shooting — at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on South Fraser Street.

In collaboration with other local activist groups, the coalition will hold the “Five Years, Still No Justice” protest at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at Sidney Friedman Park.


Sybrina Fulton, a racial justice activist and the mother of Trayvon Martin, will speak at the inaugural Osaze Osagie Memorial Lecture, presented by the Penn State Africana Research Center, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. The 17-year-old Martin was walking home from a store in February 2012 when he was fatally shot during an altercation with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who deemed him “suspicious.” Martin’s death was an inspiration for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The lecture is the first in a planned annual series on global Black communities and mental health. Space is limited, and those planning to attend should register online.

Members of the 3/20 Coalition walk down South Allen Street in State College on March 19, 2021. Photo by Geoff Rushton |


On the afternoon of March 20, 2019, one of three State College officers who went to Osagie’s Old Boalsburg Road apartment to serve a mental health warrant shot and killed the 29-year-old, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis, after he charged at them with a steak knife in a narrow basement hallway. It was the first fatal police shooting in the borough police department’s history.

Following an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna cleared the three officers involved, saying they were in a “life-or-death” situation and attempting to back away after one officer’s Taser failed to subdue Osagie, who allegedly ignored multiple commands to drop the knife. The state police Heritage Affairs Section concluded racial bias did not play a role in the shooting of Osagie, who was Black.

A federal judge in November dismissed the Osagie family’s lawsuit against the borough and the three officers, which sought unspecified damages for what the family called “years of systematic failings” by State College police to implement policies and practices that protect people with mental health disabilities during police encounters. Judge Matthew Brann wrote that the officers were not mental health professionals and could not be held liable “for failing to be something they are not, and a death they did not cause.”

Those who knew Osagie, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome, have said that while he struggled with mental health issues, he was a gentle and community-minded man dedicated to helping others.

His death sparked often contentious conversations about policing, race and mental health, and was a local flashpoint during the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 and beyond. The shooting ultimately became a a catalyst for some changes in State College and Centre County.

It led to the formation of a Community Oversight Board for the State College Police Department, multiple external reviews of borough policing, the addition of a social worker program to the department, the creation of a borough diversity, equity and inclusion department, the revival of the Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color and a joint task force that reviewed and made recommendations for the entire breadth of the county’s mental health crisis services.

An online dashboard tracks the State College Police Department’s implementation of recommendations from an outside review by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Osaze Osagie. Photo provided

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