Why Was A Mentally Distressed Man Shot By Police?

Image courtesy of portalsmag.com

Image courtesy of portalsmag.com

 “When you call police for medical attention, you shouldn’t be killed by the same people there to give you assistance.”

This was said by Mayor Bartlett, the attorney for the family of a mentally distressed man who was shot to death by police in New Rochelle, NY (abclocal.go.com).

The article by abclocal.go.com (published Oct. 22) says about the incident, which took place five months ago:

This is the second time in the last two years that a 911 call to police in Westchester County ended with a mentally distressed man being shot dead inside his home by an officer.

Cruz’s wife, daughter and attorneys are now suing New Rochelle Police for $21 million for having “failed to train or supervise its officers in properly responding to incidents involving emotionally disturbed persons.”

The lawsuit also demands that New Rochelle be forced by the court to adopt the Crisis Intervention Team Model, a strategy developed in Memphis and recognized as the “gold standard” in police response to mental health crisis.

In Westchester County, cutbacks eliminated a 24-7 Crisis Intervention Unit that could’ve come to help Mrs. Cruz’s husband, instead of a police officer that may not have known enough about mental illness to know what to do.

The point of this post, though, is not to speak ill of the New Rochelle police force. Obviously, their crisis system needs to be updated in order to prevent these things from happening, and hopefully that will be done in response to the lawsuit. The problem that I’d like to address here is the use of deadly force in a case where it may not have been necessary. The article states that the man was armed only with a knife when police approached him. So why was he shot!? Was that necessary, even if the officer felt threatened? Couldn’t the officer have found another way to subdue him?

And the biggest question is this: Without a gun, would the outcome of this incident been different?

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5 thoughts on “Why Was A Mentally Distressed Man Shot By Police?

  1. Well, the scene is set: A policeman(who is a bit crazy to take a cop job) confronts a crazy man …….. crazy vs. crazy what could possibly go wrong?

    A man with a knife is a dangerous man. The ability and skill to shoot your adversary in the leg and disarm him while both of you are under intense stress is near impossible for most cops.

    Does the gun generate the knife? or Does the knife generate the gun?
    It’s worth a try to get to the bottom of this ………. good luck!

  2. Tanya,

    What role does the family play in this?
    They claim that a crisis intervention expert should have been used; but they didn’t call one. They called the police.

    The family knew the man was off his meds but they didn’t take him to the hospital, to a doctor, to an institution they called the police.

    Aren’t people trying to force the police department to be all things to all people and is that really what they should be there for?

    The article states that the man was armed only with a knife when police approached him.

    Frankly that is one of the most inane and ridiculous arguments to make — ever see what happens to someone attacked with a knife?
    http://modernurbancombattactics.blogspot.com/2012/03/reality-of-knife-defense.html
    Why don’t you try a simple experiment — recruit a friend who is approximately the same physical characteristics as yourself. “Arm them” with just a long piece of chalk and offer to pay them 1 dollar for every “stab wound or slice” they can inflict as you try to subdue them. See how many cuts you would suffer, how many of them would be fatal.

    Couldn’t the officer have found another way to subdue him?
    Did you not read in the articles related to this they tried to stun him with a taser twice? They tried.

    • The article states that the crisis number the family would have called was not available when they needed it, so they had to call the police. In some places, police are trained to handle mental health issues in cases such as this, but not in New Rochelle. That’s why the family is suing.

      I read another article about this case and the article does say that the police used a taser. The article that I used for this post didn’t mention that, so I apologize. The claim that the taser had no effect on him seems a bit off to me, though. Could the police be saying that just so they don’t look bad for shooting him? Could they be lying? I wouldn’t be surprised.

      In terms of the man being armed with a knife- I don’t care how scared the police may have been, it’s their JOB to know what to do in these situations. Don’t be a cop if you can’t handle the responsibility of people’s lives in your hands. No excuses. Human life is precious.

      • Tanya,

        Unfortunately the family has a greater responsibility then just calling the police when a crisis number is unavailable. They are the ones who knew he had problems, they are the ones who knew how bad it was and for how long.
        While I support people who are capable of handling their own affairs being in the public; shouldn’t there be a better process for getting people committed?
        The people who consistently go off their meds, the people who are non-compliant with treatment programs and especially the people who are a danger to themselves and others.

        My point about the police is simply why do we expect them to be all things to all people?
        It doesn’t make sense. The family is expecting the police to handle a problem they — ones who have experienced mental illness in depth were not able to handle. How does it make sense that police who may have the time and energy to take an 8 hour class once a year should be the ones to handle the family problem?

        The claim that the taser had no effect on him seems a bit off to me, though.

        Go to Youtube and search for ineffective taser — you’ll be shocked (pun intended) at how ineffective tasers are.

        Could the police be saying that just so they don’t look bad for shooting him? Could they be lying? I wouldn’t be surprised.

        Is this the same police force that you expect to handle such problems? The Department you wouldn’t be surprised to find is lying — how does it make sense to put so much trust in the police when you expect them to be either incompetent or criminals?
        That is my point – let’s not depend on the police eh.

        In terms of the man being armed with a knife- I don’t care how scared the police may have been, it’s their JOB to know what to do in these situations.

        They did know how to handle it. You simply don’t like the way they handled it. Look at the pictures of people who have been stabbed, remember that it wasn’t just the police being threatened — the family called for a reason remember?

        What should the police do — aren’t they human ” Human life is precious.” ?

        Can’t have it both ways.

        • I don’t think we’ll come to an agreement on this, because I have many responses to your comments that you’ll no doubt disagree with. But this was a good discussion, anyway.

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