The frantic mother dialed 911, “Please come help me! My son has a butcher knife and I am afraid he is going to hurt himself, he is mentally ill.”
Dispatcher to 221. 221 go ahead. Proceed to 2435 Highland Park, 10/96 (insane) subject, armed with a butcher knife. His mother is on the line with me, the front door is open.
I proceeded to the call and knew my back-up would arrive about the same time I would. I turned onto Highland Park, a beautiful tree-lined street, in the affluent Dallas, bedroom community that I patrolled. We ran to the front door and into the house. The elderly mother motioned toward her kitchen and there I encountered a white male of about 40 years of age. He was wildly swinging a butcher knife back and forth…there was a large kitchen island in between us. My partner was behind me and pulled his weapon, holding it discreetly behind his back. I did not draw my weapon, but began to slowly talk to the man. He moved to within ten feet of me and said his name was Jesus.
Jesus began quoting scripture and said he wanted to go home, the angels were calling him home. I asked him several questions about the scripture he was quoting, engaging him in a prolonged discussion on the bible. (I could hear on the radio, that the ambulance had pulled up in front of the house)
I told Jesus I needed his counsel, that if he put the knife down, I could ask him more questions and perhaps he could help. Isn’t that why you are here? To help us? “Yes, Jesus responded, I will help you my child.” Jesus threw the knife into the kitchen sink. I walked over, took him firmly by the arm and made him walk with me into the living room. My partner and I spoke with him for about 10 minutes until we could convince him to lay down on the gurney to go the Parkland Hospital psyche ward.
It wasn’t easy, I talked myself into being handcuffed to Jesus Christ in the ER of Parkland for 3 hours, but it was worth it to save his life, and possibly mine. As a police officer, you have to mentally prepare yourself to deal with all types of individuals on 911 calls, especially the mentally ill. You have to plot it out in your mind, play scenarios in your down time, think over your play by play as you are enroute to each call. Patience goes a very long way with proper officer safety procedures.
That call for service was about 20 years ago for me, but I remembered it quickly when I saw the following video this week. ***Warning**** video shows Dallas police killing a man. (click on link) I was so sickened upon watching the video, I felt compelled to write this blog. Notice the Tazer gun on the officer’s duty belt.
Every day there are headlines concerning abuse of force and shootings involving police across the country. The spate of unarmed black men dying because of police bullets has people on their feet marching in several cities as I write this. I must admit, with a couple of those I have been on the fence post with my opinion on the use of deadly force. While others that I have viewed on television have appeared to be outright murders. These killings will not stop until police departments take real efforts to increase deadly force training. They will not stop until we all agree that all lives matter, black, white, and the mentally ill.
Mentally ill subjects are different, not all alike. But guess what? Police officers could be trained to deal with them in like kind, with proper training. The Dallas cops in the video knew a mentally ill man was going to come to the door. They didn’t know he would have a screwdriver, but why did they immediately go to deadly force when a lower level of force was on their belts? Wasn’t the man’s life just as valuable as their own? Why did they stand at the doorway with a car right behind them? Why not back up onto the yard and began a conversation with the man, much like I did with Jesus?
Could I have walked into that kitchen in 1994 and shot and killed Jesus…and it be justified? Yes. He lunged with the knife in my direction a couple of times as I spoke to him. He would be dead 20 years and I would be writing about the time I killed another human being. Instead, he got to a hospital and got back on his meds. I checked back on patrol after a very unusual evening talking to my “savior.”
I just wish the two Dallas officers would have taken a pause…a very brief pause, about approaching that door and the man who walked through it. Now they must go on in life knowing they took one….if only they had been mentally prepared.