“This person should be addressed as a person that has an emotional or mental problem or issue,” said Sabine French, who lives 10 minutes away from Mr. Thomas in Queens and spoke with him on Thursday. “And that was not happening.”
Robin Hernandez, who has lived in the neighborhood for about a decade, said she had seen Mr. Thomas jogging around the block in the past. She was one of about 30 neighbors who had gathered a few houses away over the past few days, sitting and watching quietly from patio chairs or cars, waiting to see whether Mr. Thomas would come down from the tree or be forced out.
On Friday, two officers spent much of the day on the roof of Mr. Thomas’s house about 10 feet below where he was sitting, shirtless with a blanket dangling from the branches nearby. At least 40 more officers were assembled below.
Several neighbors said that the police had flown drones with loud sirens over the house from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., trying to drive Mr. Thomas out of the tree with the noise.
Guy Bruno, who said he had lived a block from Mr. Thomas since 1998, said he had seen him asking to speak to a Black officer on Wednesday. A Black officer briefly came to the window to speak with him, Mr. Bruno said, but when the officer left, Mr. Thomas, who is Black, became upset. That seemed to be the moment when he decided to stay put, Mr. Bruno said.
“I thought it would be over already,” Mr. Bruno said. “I didn’t expect it to be this long. I thought it would be a quick thing.”
Ms. French, who is also the Queens borough advocate, said that Ms. Perry, the police chaplain, had called asking for her help, since Ms. French, like Mr. Thomas, is Haitian. She said he was talkative and relaxed when she spoke to him in Haitian Creole for about an hour on Thursday.