NYAPRS Note: In recent months, there have been a tragically mounting increase of police fatal interventions with people with psychiatric conditions… in Michigan, in California, in Texas… and in increasing number in New York City.
More needs to be done to look at improving police response. Large US cities, most notably Philadelphia, Portland and Memphis have incorporated the Crisis Intervention Team approach that has been very successful in de-escalatin… not escalating encounters with people in severe emotional distress. CIT typically includes peers and other mental health workers with police in mounting successful responses to very challenging situations.
Despite added mental health related training, good intentions and a number of successful interventions, we must add every approach that has been successful in preventing such tragedies.
The tragedy below is the 3rd account in recent months where mothers have called for help, only to watch their children die.
Something must be done now.
A Call for Help, Then a Fatal Police Shooting
By Wendy Ruderman New York Times September 26, 2012
Mohamed Bah had not seemed himself lately. Day after day, the 28-year-old taxi driver failed to show up for work and skipped his classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College. When his mother called from Guinea, Mr. Bah acted as though he did not know her, the police said Wednesday.
“In phone conversations, she would say, ‘Oh, hello, Son,’ and he would say: ‘No, it’s not your son. I’m not Mohamed’ – or words to that effect,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
Mr. Bah’s mother grew so concerned that she traveled to New York City from her home in West Africa to check on him. Around 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Bah was holed up inside his Harlem apartment and would not come out, the police said.
As Mr. Bah’s mother stood outside her son’s apartment on Morningside Avenue, near 124th Street, with one of Mr. Bah’s cousins, they grew increasingly worried. The cousin called 911 and handed the phone to Mr. Bah’s mother, Mr. Browne said.
“She expresses a concern that her son, who is in this apartment, is going to hurt himself or somebody else,” Mr. Browne said, recounting the 911 call.
That emergency police call set off a chain of events that led to a standoff ending when officers fatally shot Mr. Bah – just days before his 29th birthday – as he plunged a 13-inch knife into two officers, slicing their protective vests and prompting one officer to yell, “He’s stabbing me; shoot him,” Mr. Browne said.
It was the second time this month that police officers opened fire and killed a knife-wielding man they characterized as “emotionally disturbed,” and the third time since Aug. 12, when Darrius H. Kennedy, 51, skipped backward down Seventh Avenue with a long kitchen knife until officers shot and killed him as tourists packed Times Square on a sunny afternoon.
In Mr. Bah’s case, patrol officers were dispatched to his fifth-floor apartment, where he lived alone. He opened the door and stood naked with a knife in his hand. The officers quickly pulled shut the apartment door and called for an Emergency Service Unit team. Emergency officers tried unsuccessfully to talk Mr. Bah into leaving behind the knife and coming outside, Mr. Browne said.
Emergency officers then forced open the door to the apartment. Mr. Bah, who had put on a shirt and a pair of shorts, confronted them with the knife. When Mr. Bah did not comply with repeated orders to drop it, officers twice fired a Taser and also a rubber bullet at him, but he continued to advance, Mr. Browne said.
“None of those firings have any visible effect,” Mr. Browne said. “At this point, it’s not a matter of even keeping him from charging; he is now stabbing two E.S.U. officers in their vests, and one of them, as this guy keeps stabbing, yells, ‘He’s stabbing me; shoot him.’ ”
Three officers fired a total of 10 bullets, striking Mr. Bah in the arm, chest and abdomen as well as the left side of the head. He was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Mr. Browne said.
One officer received what appeared to be “a small puncture wound” to his arm, Mr. Browne said.
The three officers who fired at Mr. Bah were placed on administrative duty pending an investigation, a routine procedure for any police shooting. None of the three had previously discharged their weapons on duty, Mr. Browne said.
Efforts to reach Mr. Bah’s family on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Mr. Bah had no known history of psychiatric illness, Mr. Browne said.
Daniel Krieger contributed reporting.