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I-Team: Police Encounter With Distraught Man In Cambridge Under Investigation

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) - Mason Kortz was getting ready to go to bed when he heard yelling outside his apartment window. "I saw the police had this man in handcuffs there were two police on either side of him- holding him," Kortz said. "And three more around him generally."

Kortz ran downstairs and began recording on his cellphone. At first, Mason said he didn't know what was going on, but later learned the African-American man handcuffed was trying to go into a Cambridge apartment building to see his mother. She had recently been released from the hospital and suddenly died.

Kortz told the I-Team, "that level of emotional distress that he must have been feeling already- from mom suddenly passing away to have that on top of the police handcuffing you and preventing you from getting into there to see your own mother."

Cambridge Police
Cambridge Police handcuff a man outside an apartment building (Image credit Mason Kortz)

The encounter, with the man who appeared to be distraught, lasted nearly an hour. At one point, officers took off the handcuffs only to put them back on minutes later.

Kortz said he could hear the police saying the man was having a mental health crisis, and was shocked to learn that the ambulance his wife called 911 to send, was canceled by the police twice before she insisted they send medical help. In the end, the man was not arrested and was left to say goodbye to his mother out on the street as she was wheeled into a hearse.

"I think about my own mother, I speak to her every day if I had to say goodbye to her surrounded by police officers standing out on the street with people walking by gawking that's a really awful situation – I think it could have been avoided," Kortz said. "I just think the situation could have been handled better I hope the police use this as an opportunity to reflect on how they could do better."

The mayor said her office is reviewing the incident. Both the Cambridge Police and Police Review and Advisory Board are investigating also investigating.

Statement from Cambridge Police:

The Cambridge Police Department is issuing this statement to provide preliminary information associated with a video that was taken during a sudden death investigation of a 50-year-old woman on Wednesday night at an apartment building on Franklin Street. The Cambridge Fire and Police Departments and Pro EMS arrived on-scene, responded to the apartment where the deceased woman had been staying with a resident of the building, and secured the building in order to conduct a sudden death investigation to determine the manner of death, per standard departmental procedure. During the course of the investigation, a family member of the deceased woman sought to gain entry to the building and to the residence where his deceased relative had been staying. Due to the active investigation and concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the deceased woman's family member and other members of the public were restricted from entering during the course of the investigation.

The family member who had sought to enter the building where his deceased relative was staying was understandably very emotional as a result of the situation. Over an extended period of time, he remained very distraught and did not comply with verbal orders to refrain from attempting to enter the building. His brother, Cambridge Police Officers and EMTs all repeatedly spoke with him and used various verbal de-escalation tactics in hopes of getting him to calm down and cooperate. Unfortunately, he remained uncooperative and continued to attempt to avoid the public safety officials and to enter the building. Due to these circumstances, and for his safety and the safety of others, he was temporarily placed in handcuffs outside the building. He was informed that once he was compliant, the temporary handcuffs would be removed. The family member ultimately became compliant, and the handcuffs were removed. After the deceased woman's body was transported outside the building by a funeral home service, the family member and his brother were privately escorted to see and be with their deceased relative.

At the conclusion of the sudden death investigation, the cause of death was determined not to be suspicious. While the distributed video begins at the time at which the family member was handcuffed, there does not appear to have been any undue force used by any of the on-scene Officers or other public safety officials before, during or after the incident. The family member was never placed under arrest and was not issued any citations.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as they grieve during this difficult time.

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