I Get A Call About Officer Who Fatally Shot Man With Schizophrenia: Another Preventible Tragedy

CBS Nightly News called me this week to ask if I would talk on camera about Crisis Intervention Team Training for law enforcement. The call was prompted by the release of a video that shows police officers shooting Lavall Hall, a 25 year-old black man, in Miami, Florida.  I explained that I couldn’t talk directly about the Hall case, but I happily explained to a producer what CIT is and why it is important. I then suggested the producer call Sam Cochran, who is widely seen as the “Father of CIT,” and Mike Woody, a former Ohio police officer who is president of CIT International. 

Although CBS passed on interviewing me on camera, I was thrilled to get the call because it showed that news outlets are becoming more aware of CIT and the need for specialized police training.

The Hall shooting is an all to common example of how things can go wrong when police are called to deal with a medical problem.

According to the Miami Hearld, Hall’s mother, Catherine Daniels was awaken in the early hours of February 15th. She found her son outside in the cold almost naked and waving a broomstick. Frightened, she called the police, who a week earlier had escorted Hall to a nearby mental hospital. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Unfortunately, the newspaper didn’t explain what had happened to Hall after he was taken to that hospital, under what circumstances he had been released, or how he had come to be half naked outside his mother’s door. Nor did it reveal if the officers who responded were aware that Hall had a mental disorder.

The police said that Hall was agitated and began swinging a broomstick at them. One officer later required stitches.  The officers shot Hall with Tasers but that didn’t stop him from fleeing. The officers chased him and when he refused to drop to the ground, one of the officers fired his weapon five times, killing Hall. Remember that until the police arrived, Hall had not broken any laws.

A video of the shooting was recorded on the police car’s dashcam and Hall’s mother can be heard telling the officers, “I’m scared. Please don’t hurt my baby.”

“The officers had made up their mind they were going to kill Hall,” said family attorney Glen Goldberg.

The officer who shot Hall can be heard yelling “Get on the fucking ground or you’re dead. Get on the ground or you’re dead…”

The officer who shot Hall is white. Hall is black, but attorney Goldberg and Hall’s mother said at a news conference that this shooting was not about race, it was about mental illness and poor police training.

What happen in Miami Gardens is every parents’ nightmare. You call the police and instead of getting help, your loved one ends up in more trouble or worse. Often, the person who is psychotic gets arrested for assaulting an officer.

I called the police when my son became psychotic after our local Mobile Crisis Response Team refused to come to our house to evaluate him. The officers decided to take my son to a local mental health facility but my son balked at being handcuffed when they took him to a squad car. He resisted and was shot with a Taser. That jolt panicked him and he ran, but fortunately, an officer chose to tackle him, rather than draw a weapon.

I recently met with Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., who told me that he was making CIT training a priority with a goal of having 100 percent of his officers graduate from the program. That is wonderful news. Having a CIT officer come to assist you makes a big difference, which is what I told the CBS producer. I also shared another fact with CBS.

“At least half the people shot by police are believed to have a mental health problem.”*

That’s a statistic that should alarm us all.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.