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Family of a machete-wielding man fatally shot by Allentown Police wants answers

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 25 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2013 11:11:48 AM CDT

It's been over a month since a man wielding a machete in plain daylight was fatally shot by the police in Allentown.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

It's been over a month since a man wielding a machete in plain daylight was fatally shot by the police in Allentown.

The family of Saturnino Perez De la Rosa, 44, says he had serious mental health problems and suffered from schizophrenia.

According to family members they tried getting De la Rosa hospitalized the night before his deadly confrontation with police.

"We want justice for him and find out what really happened that day,” said brother Elizer De la Rosa.

On Thursday, February 21st just before noon, police encountered De la Rosa wielding a machete near the West End Cemetery and Chew Street in Allentown.

It took officers several attempts with Tasers and finally gunshots to subdue him-- a total 13 shell casings were recovered at the scene.

"I don't know how they justify killing somebody several times, I don't understand that," said Elizer.

District Attorney for Lehigh County, Jim Martin, stated police were made aware of De la Rosa's mental health issues the night before but because he hadn't done anything illegal they could not put him in custody.

Apart from changing mental health law, some believe more training on the part of police officers could help.

According to Dr. Edward Michalik, administrator of the Berks County Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Orogram, "An officer who has more training rather than less in serving people with mental health issues is better equipped to respond to those situations.”

The Berks County Fraternal Order of Police says every cadet receives 20 hours of training during police academy, on how to deal with people with special needs.

While the Lehigh County DA office says the shooting appeared to be justified it's still under investigation.

"Instead of saving his life the night before, they just killed him... so I think the way of helping people like that has to be the system, it has to be changed," said Elizer.

De la Rosa's family says he was not under any medication at the time of the incident.