Saturday, August 19, 2017

Don't Kill the Mentally Ill

Saturday, we gathered in East Flatbush, in front of the home of Dwayne Juene, a mentally ill man who was killed on July 30th,  to protest the killing of the mentally ill by the NYPD.

Arriving, a woman gave me a flyer declaring: "The killing of Dwayne Jeune, a 32 year old black man, is the latest in an ongoing saga of police murder of people in mental crisis who either called for help or whose families did.  Whether the request is made for the police or an ambulance, if the cops show up first the results are often deadly. Three of four police who responded in this case  had been "trained"  but did not spend time talking with the family to figure out how to redirect and calm Mr Jeune.  Mental health workers - not police uniforms  with weapons - should have been the first on the scene."

July 31, the NY Times reported.

A man whose mother called the police to report that he was acting erratically was fatally shot on Monday by one of the police officers who responded to the family’s apartment in Brooklyn, the police said.
The man, Dwayne Jeune, 32, was shot after he advanced on the officers with “a large carving knife” in the apartment, after two shocks from a stun gun failed to subdue him, Terence A. Monahan, chief of patrol, said at a news conference at the apartment complex.
“This incident unraveled in seconds,” Chief Monahan said. He cautioned that the information was preliminary and that the department’s initial account was “subject to change” as the investigation continued.
The mother called 911 around 12:20 p.m., saying that Mr. Jeune was acting erratically though not violently, the police said. Four officers went to the family’s fifth-floor apartment at 1370 New York Avenue in East Flatbush, knocked and were admitted by the woman, Chief Monahan said.

The police had been to the apartment before to help Msr. Jeune, but this time, the officers encountered him holding a knife, the chief said. One of the officers fired two darts from a Taser stun gun, striking Mr. Jeune in the chest and arm as he approached the officers with the knife. When that did not stop him, another officer opened fire, Chief Monahan said.

Unfortunately, the incident is not without precedent.  The NYPD has made a practice of escalating these situations, instead of cooling tempers.  Recent incidents include the cases of Eleanor Bumpers, Mohamed Bah, and Deborah Danner.  After the Bumpers killing, over three decades ago, the police said they were beginning to train their officers in dealing with the mentally ill, but this seems to have had little effect.   This spring, the NYPD again said it was implementing such training, but the one unity already trained to deal with the mentally ill, the Emergency Services Unit, never seems to be on the scene. 

Arriving at his home at 1370 New York Avenue, Black Lives Matters activists were speaking.  They were joined by members of Rise and Resist members and others, including ACT UP veterans Maxine Wolfe and Alexis Danzig

Kate Barnhart, of New Alternatives, carried a sign of David Felix, another mentally ill man, who was shot by the NYPD last year.

We marched to the police precinct where activists called for unity and for the NYPD to step back and de escalate instead of escalate these moments.  Lawyers, organizers, and family members spoke. Hopefully the NYPD is listening.

There is just way too much violence out there, too many guns, just too much.

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