For the residents of Brookville, it was a tumultuous three days last week, as a neighbor went through what appeared to be an emotional episode and later climbed a tree, which he stayed in for approximately 52 hours.
Roody Thomas, 44, allegedly got into an altercation with his mother, Irlande Defailly, 65, on Oct. 6 and said, “I am going to kill you,” according to reports and the police.
A week prior to the altercation, Thomas had an alleged argument with a 50-year-old girlfriend in a BMW on Sept. 30, which led to a warrant being issued for his arrest for assault, according to a New York Times report.
Defailly called police on Oct. 6 and filed a complaint the following day.
“There is a complaint report on file for incidents that occurred between August 31, 2021 through October 7, 2021,” said a police spokeswoman via email. “A 65-year-old female complainant reported that she got into a verbal dispute with a 44-year-old male who threatened her with serious physical harm on October 7, 2021.”
The report also stated that on Aug. 31, 2021 the male intentionally broke her door by forcefully hitting it with his fists, according to the NYPD spokeswoman.
But following last week’s incident, Thomas has not been arrested.
Police came to the scene at 145th Avenue and 225th Street Oct. 6, and Thomas, scared to go back to Riker’s Island, which he even filed a lawsuit about, alleging mistreatment at the jail in 2008, went up the roof of his mother’s house and climbed a nearby tree, according to Brookville resident Dr. Reba Perry.
“I’m a neighbor,” Perry, who said police turned the neighborhood upside down for three days, told the Chronicle Monday. “There was noise, banging and floodlights ... if they would have called the crisis prevention program, it would never have led up to this.”
Thomas was traumatized from his time on Rikers, according to Perry. Instead of a crisis management team, nearly 50 officers were on the scene and tried to get Thomas out of the tree by bribing him with food, using bright floodlights, flying drones and banging on some drums.
“There was noise and banging and floodlights and that was never the goal,” said Perry, who has known Thomas for six years. “The goal was to get him treatment ... and that could have been resolved instead of all that manpower.”
Perry, who also happens to be an NYPD chaplain, suggested to police on Oct. 6, that they should reach out to a mental health crisis prevention team, but she said her recommendation was ignored.
“If they had called them from the beginning it would never had led up to this and now he is publicly humiliated and our neighborhood is now a target for a man that was in a tree,” said Perry. “People are still coming here to take pictures and it’s embarrassing.”
Perry, who also has a background as an emergency room nurse and has a sibling with schizophrenia, does not excuse any of Thomas’ behavior when it comes to an alleged assault, but as someone who is a caregiver for her brother and has been trained to recognize a variety of mental health issues, she believes the tactics used by the police were not helpful and prolonged an already bad situation.
“This was obviously a fairly unique and complicated situation that unfolded over days,” said the police spokeswoman via email. “The first consideration was not to do anything that would further endanger Mr. Thomas or the officers working to get him down safely.”
As Thomas remained in the tree a second day while eating very little of the food police tried to give him and not drinking any water, Perry decided to reach out to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ office, which led to Erica Ford of Life Camp, an organization that fights to reduce gun violence and provide wraparound services, including mental health services, to step in.
Wraparound services refers to using a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackling behaviorial and mental health challenges and putting an individual’s needs at the center of his or her treatment with a support team of professionals to provide a specialized treatment or care plan, according to the National Wraparound Initiative, which is a part of the School of Social Work at Portland State University.
After Ford arrived and was able to talk Thomas down from the tree Oct. 8, he was sent to a hospital to get a medical checkup.
“My goal was to get him out of a tree and bring him to a hospital,” said Perry.
Thomas was checked out at an undisclosed hospital and later received medical clearance over the weekend for his physical health, according to Perry. The Brookville man has not received a full psychological evaluation because he did not express suicidal ideation or say that he wanted mental health services, and therefore he was released back to his home as the hospital he was staying in needed more beds because of Covid-19. As Oct. 11 was a holiday, Thomas also did not receive an assessment on Monday, either, but Perry planned to help her neighbor get a mental health evaluation on Oct. 12.
“The police force is not trained for mentally ill people,” said Perry. “When I asked them from day one to get the crisis prevention team, they said it was not in their budget, but it was in their budget to have 50 million police officers, with crews and ambulances and paramedics. Who is paying for all of that? ... This was completely inhumane.”
On Nov. 10, 2020, the Mayor’s Office announced that 65 percent of NYPD patrol precincts’ operational staff have been trained across the city with Crisis Intervention Team training.
“Due to Covid-19 the crisis intervention training was put on pause,” said the police spokeswoman. “The NYPD plans to resume training when it is possible and safe for all involved.”
An NYPD spokesman said in a call to the Queens Chronicle that police will wait until Thomas’ psychological evaluation is complete to decide how to proceed.
“At its conclusion, the incident was resolved without injury to anyone involved in the rescue,” said the NYPD spokeswoman. “The plan from the first day was to get Mr. Thomas to a medical facility for an evaluation. Any pending criminal matters will need to be resolved, but a de-escalation of this situation for the safety of all was required first.”