The police broke down the door of councilman Luis Velez’s house on Southard Street on Wednesday afternoon.
Velez said he was not home when police breached the door of his house. Police responded to the house little after 4:30 p.m.
“I was a little bit upset,” said Velez. He had been out of Paterson on a retreat in Long Island. His vehicle was parked near the house. “They wanted to know if I was okay.”
Someone called police and told them a person was at the location in distress.
Police thought Velez, who has diabetes and recently survived Covid-19, was in danger inside the house. Officials briefed on the incident said police suspected Velez was possibly engaged in self-harm inside the house.
Police knocked on the door, but received no answer.
Velez said he learned about the incident from his sister. He immediately called the police in Paterson, but did not get an adequate answer.
Public safety director Jerry Speziale said police responded to a possible “medical emergency” at the location.
“They breached entry under the emergency aid doctrine,” said Speziale. Under the emergency aid doctrine, police are able to conduct an warrantless search to provide “immediate assistance to protect or preserve life.”
Police tried to obtain a key to Velez’s apartment, said prominent developer Charles Florio, who rents the house to Velez. Florio said police visited his office to try to get a key.
Velez said he will seek the advice of an attorney over the incident. Velez and police chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora have been at odds with each other.
Velez has publicly criticized the police chief over the past year.
“I don’t want to get into speculation,” said Velez when asked if he thought he was being retaliated against.
Baycora declined to comment.
Mayor Andre Sayegh did not respond to multiple calls for comments.
“If people were worried about someone’s well-being and if they’re worried about somebody being in a coma, or a heart attack, or some sort of medical emergency, would you want the police to walk away or the fire department to walk away? And then God forbid, you’re lying there saying, ‘help, help, help.’”
Email: [email protected]