Mental Health Call Results In Death, Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A family has filed a lawsuit after a family member in crisis was shot and killed by police during a mental health call. The victim can be seen on video carrying a broken piece of wood that he was threatening family members with. The police were aware at the time that the suspect had a history of schizophrenia.
Police ordered the suspect to drop the wood. However, the suspect refused and a taser was deployed in an effort to stop him. The taser failed to slow down the suspect who charged police with the broken piece of wood. Police shot and killed the man. The family filed a lawsuit afterward claiming that police used excessive force. However, cases like these tend to be decided in favor of police officers.
According to the lawsuit, officers had received a prior call concerning the same defendant and failed to alert dispatch that the call was regarding a mental health crisis.
Analyzing the allegations
Generally speaking, a plaintiff who presents this type of case to the court wants to have a direct link between the officer’s conduct, a policy violation, and injury or death. In this case, the link is indirect. Instead of alerting dispatch that the matter was a mental health call, they failed. They also failed to report the presence of a weapon. While these failures are policy violations, there’s no way to prove that following the policy would have resulted in a better outcome for the plaintiff. Ultimately, you’d hope for zero situations in which an officer has to use lethal force on a defendant in crisis. However, officers have a right to defend themselves and are taught to shoot at suspects who run toward them with sharp objects. While the piece of wood could have been completely harmless, a police officer wouldn’t know that necessarily.
Today, police departments do have mental health crisis units that are called to de-escalate situations. In this case, that didn’t happen. The family blames the police for this, and while the police did not follow policy to the letter, that stops short of assigning negligence to the officers. This lawsuit will be difficult to win.
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