This story is becoming frighteningly more common and ever more distressing. A person calls 911 to help a loved one in a mental-health crisis, and said loved one is then shot and killed by police. Sometimes the person is “armed” with a bat or a knife, sometimes not.
This sad tale was told once again Monday afternoon as a New York City police officer shot and killed 32-year-old Dwayne Jeune in his apartment in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. He died on the scene.
Four police officers responded to the fifth-floor apartment around 12:30 p.m. after getting a 9-1-1 call from the man’s mother, who said he was “nonviolent” but “emotionally disturbed,” according to the NYPD’s Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan.
The mother opened the door, and when officers walked in, the man charged toward them holding “a large carving knife,” Monahan told reporters outside of the building. One officer Tased the man, which didn’t slow him down Monahan said.
A second officer shot him in the chest; the man was pronounced dead on the scene, Monahan said. It was not immediately clear how many shots were fired.
Although many of the details from the family (the only ones I am inclined to believe) are not yet available—a news outlet has already defiled this dead man’s name by calling him a “deranged, knife-wielding man” in its headline—we do know that yet another black person is dead at the hands of police after a loved one called for help.
Steve Coe, the CEO of Community Access, a nonprofit that provides services to people with mental-health concerns, said in a statement that “not enough police officers have received Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), an evidence-based, 40-hour program where officers learn how to properly defuse a situation with a person exhibiting emotional distress.”
A neighbor, Regina Blain, 22, told Patch that the man police killed had “emotional problems,” but never seemed threatening.
“Police lives matter but our lives matter, too,” Blain added. “It’s like absurd because this police crime going on, it’s not fair. … They treat us here like we’re animals.”
As the Washington Post notes in its now three-year study of police killings in America, about a quarter of those killed by cops are in mental distress.
We know but a few, but we say their names and remember: 66-year-old Deborah Danner; 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier (police also shot and killed his neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones); 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times; 30-year-old Charleena Lyles, who was shot in front of her children. Alfred Olango. Tanisha Anderson. Anthony Hill.
The list goes on and on like an unending funeral dirge. Our lives, the lives of our mothers, sons, loved ones, snuffed out because we or they are sick and black. Many of the officers are never charged; those who are usually get off.
As we remember those who have fallen, be clear: Black Lives Matter. Mental illness is real but doesn’t have to be fatal. Black people: Don’t call 911.