Dallas Police's Final, Fatal Encounter with a Schizophrenic

Categories: Public Safety

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The 200 block of Glencairn Drive, the site of the latest shooting between Dallas cops and a mentally ill man.

UPDATED OCTOBER 6, 2014: Jason Harrison's Father Sues Dallas and the Police Officers Who Killed His Son

ORIGINAL POST: To neighbors and family, it was obvious that Jason Harrison was mentally ill, even if the legal system kept treating him like someone who wasn't. The last time his mother called for the cops to come to their home in Oak Cliff was this past Saturday afternoon. He seemed agitated, standing in the street, according to a neighbor, and something that looked like it might be a weapon was in his pocket. "We could see the handle of it sticking out," the neighbor told Unfair Park. It was a screwdriver. Harrison's mother called 911 and asked for a speciality team to come and take her son to Parkland hospital.

Instead, at some point after the cops arrived, neighbors say, they heard three gunshots. The Dallas Police Department blog published a post on Saturday saying that Harrison "made an aggressive act towards one of the officers with the screwdriver," and so both officers fired, killing him. He was 38.

Harrison's mother hasn't yet responded to an interview request, but family members told WFAA that he was unable to obtain long-term mental health treatment anywhere "because he showed no signs of hurting himself or anybody else."

Yet his mother often had to call cops to her home, neighbors say. "This time I feel like they got tired of coming out here, so they finally killed him," says the one who saw the screwdriver in Harrison's pocket, though the neighbor never felt personally threatened by Harrison and believes cops shouldn't have shot him.

Before Saturday, Harrison's last major confrontation with Dallas police was on September 11. Harrison's mother told officers that Harrison hadn't slept or taken his medication in two days. When police arrived, they saw him pacing and yelling in the kitchen.

Harrison "began to make derogatory remarks towards officers as he noticed officers watching him," something the officers apparently took seriously enough to note in their report. As they watched him, he then spit in the face of Officer Tawanna Williams, "making contact with the comp skin," goes the police narrative. That was what made the officers decide to place him in cuffs and bring him to jail. On the way out, he spit in the other officer's face, too.

Harrison was charged with harassment of a public servant, a felony. The court determined that Harrison was incompetent to stand trial and instead sentenced him to a maximum of 120 days at the Rio Grande State Center, a mental health facility.

In February, the head of the facility told the judge that Harrison had become competent to stand trial, something that's common once offenders are medicated. Under a plea bargain, Harrison pleaded guilty to attempted assault of a public servant and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

"I did unlawfully, then and there with the attempt to assault, harass or alarm T. WILLIAMS...cause the said complainant to contact the SALIVA of the defendant," reads his judicial confession. It does not mention the schizophrenia that his family and friends say afflicted him.

Patricia Ramirez, a friend of the mother, liked Harrison, remembering him as someone who often wandered the neighborhood, walking to the store and talking to himself.

Ramirez ran toward the house after she heard the three gunshots on Saturday. Officers were guarding the scene, she says, and she didn't know what had happened.

After police brought Harrison's mother in for questioning, Ramirez cleaned the blood left behind in the street with peroxide and bleach so the reminder of his death would be gone before his mother returned home. "She loved him," she says.


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37 comments
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

He should have had a rifle slung over his shoulder.  Then he could claim "open carry". 

Voot
Voot

I think the quaintest thing about this piece is its notion of "unarmed". That's why playing baseball with someone's head is properly referred to as "America's pastime" rather than the more judgmental "bludgeoning", and why it would really be in poor taste not to ride a Dart bus late at night with someone who is obviously a building salvage specialist carrying his crowbar home.


Of course, those who discover too late just how unbelievably fast someone can scamper across 20 feet and slip a screwdriver up under their sternum don't blog or comment here as frequently as they probably should.

Anon.
Anon.

Repost deleted.

Anon.
Anon.

Failure to make available adequate mental health services is ultimately what killed this man.

That being said, if you do not want the very limited number of resources available to police officers to be deployed, do not call them. Officers have handcuffs, batons, tasers, pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles. Often, in order to get handcuffs on an individual, an assortment of these tools are used. None of them are without risk, to both the officer and the individual being restrained, and sometimes to bystanders.

Some of these tools are usually terminal if successfully deployed. If you don't want your known mentally ill family member killed by police, do not call them unless that is the only option left.

In order to prevent this final option, make certain your mentally ill family member takes the prescribed medication because the known side effects for some mentally ill patients who fail to take their medication may include death (or suicide) due to the involvement of law enforcement personnel.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Repuglycan Mental Health Care = Bullet Therapy



TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Did they shoot both of him?

ehartmann11
ehartmann11

My grandmother was the head nurse of an Illinois mental hospital for 20 years before most of them were shut down for budget cuts.  When society doesn't make it a priority to care for these people, they are not the only ones who end up hurting or paying for it.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Voot

I don't see anyone here in this forum castigating these cops for their actions in this particular case.



wcvemail
wcvemail

@Anon.

Well said. To expect beat cops to be trained and equipped to deal with all possible worlds of mental illness, based on a call saying only "He's off his meds, and I think he has a weapon," is simply irrational. That's like claiming that a cop "could have shot only to wound." Sure, cops are taught some de-escalation tactics, but that's not going to help when a person's own biochemistry is ragingly out of kilter.


Of course, cops who lie after the fact are subject to the same justice system and should be held accountable, as we've just had reinforced in Dallas. 

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Anon. The problem isn't so much a lack of adequate mental health services as much as it is a lack of desire among the mentally ill to receive treatment.  Bipolar and schizophrenic people are notorious for going off their meds.  The courts have decided that we cannot force treatment on people who don't want it....so you get this.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Yeah, that's what that Repuglycan David Brown trains them to do, right?  Along with all those Repuglycan Police Unions and our Repuglycan run city counsel, right?


Face it, Dallas is hard Democrat, the police doubly so.  This is your utopia.  Embrace it.

tdkisok
tdkisok

@TheRuddSki


I hope that when tragedy hits you someone makes a cheap ass joke.  Same goes for that Hulk douche bag.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@ehartmann11 

Damn straight.

We give beau coup $$$ to able-bodied and able-brained folk and toss the mentally ill on the street. 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@ehartmann11

Even more than funding, it's people like your grandmother who can't be easily replaced.

Reader
Reader

@TheCredibleHulk The original title said that he was an "Unarmed" schizophrenic.  They apparently thought better of that. 

observist
observist topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @DonkeyHotay That's still just as wrong as the last time you said it and I gave you evidence it was wrong.  Police, as individuals tend strongly to vote Republican.  The FOP has traditionally endorsed Republican presidential candidates for the past 40+ years.  Police are authoritarians with guns, and before you start yammering about Hitler, Stalin and Mao, here in the present-day US, authoritarians with guns are reliably Republican.


Democrats may be people you don't like, but that doesn't mean all people you don't like are Democrats.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@everlastingphelps ... it was Rethuglican policy, first begun under your Repug Icon Ronny Raygun, that decimated and eliminated Mental Health Care Facilities in the U$A, instead opting to "treat"  millions of mentally ill Americans with Prison instead ... or in the cases above, with Police Execution.



TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@tdkisok

I hope that when tragedy hits you someone makes a cheap ass joke.

I do too.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Actually, better:

...and I am too.

C'mon rudd, get with the rhymes.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@DonkeyHotay @everlastingphelps

I'll keep this non-Repub/Dem: it was about that time that the long-term psych studies started proving that  mentally ill people have much better treatment in small, residential-treatment facilities located in the neighborhoods where their families could visit and lend support, rather than chemical-heavy warehouses. The big warehouses were emptied as a first step only, with the second step to be many, smaller, more localized treatment facilities. 

Regardless of national politics, those smaller facilities never got built because of the NIMBY attitude of the neighborhoods, primarily, which we're still seeing today.

dingo
dingo

@DonkeyHotay @everlastingphelps 

'first begun under your Repug Icon Ronny Raygun...'

They used to call mental institutions snake pits because they would lock the Jasons of society up in overcrowded institutions (jail cells) because they were deemed risks to society. There was little or no effective treatment involved.


Now there are medications that provide for some mitigation to the risks involved. 

It's easy to say everyone should be provided top notch care and all other social ills should be eliminated.

This guy was in for 120 days and they had him controlled through medication. 

If we had every schizophrenic locked up indefinitely in order to force meds on them and protect society if they skipped their meds then folks would raise shit about the personal liberties of the afflicted.


As Hillary says, these are hard choices.



doublecheese
doublecheese

@DonkeyHotay @everlastingphelps Actually, it was court decisions that prevented forced treatment of the mentally ill that emptied the mental institutions.  Cutting the funding to those institutions is only logical when they are empty.  Nice try though.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ozonelarryb

I prefer the ending without the rhyme - it works better with the subject matter. Where you expect the rhyme, the jarring cadence reinforces the point.

Hot.Sauce
Hot.Sauce

@stubblecheese

Cases decided by republican judges and defended by republican government attorneys.

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