Irvin Moorer-Charley, 34, was shot and killed by Richland County South Carolina deputies, reported The Charlotte Observer. The officers confused the stick in Moorer-Charley’s hand for a weapon. A local activist group claims Moorer-Charley was having a mental crisis.
Around 6 p.m. Saturday, deputies responded to a domestic violence report involving a weapon, reported The State. Moorer-Charley was reported to be shot with a taser after attempting to attack Deputy Zachary Hentz. Hentz opened fire, shooting Moorer-Charley four times.
It’s unclear whether he died on the scene or at the hospital but the officers performed CPR on Moorer-Charley for at least 20 minutes before the ambulance arrived.
Activists and community leaders spoke out about the shooting Sunday.
From The State:
The South Carolina Black Activist Coalition said it and Moorer-Charley’s family will be at the news conference, where they will address the incident along with concerns from the community, demands for justice, and calls for transparency.
“Unarmed Black man was shot 10 times in the middle of a mental health crisis,” said a man wearing a Stand As One sweatshirt in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page. “He had a stick in his hand.”
Stand As One says it is dedicated to activism for equal rights of all individuals as well as expanding community outreach and growth.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott disputed the claim that Moorer-Charley was shot ten times and defended the actions of the officer. “We can’t expect these deputies to go out here and be killed. They have to protect themselves. And that’s what this deputy did yesterday. He protected himself. He went home to his family last night. Unfortunately Mr. Charley didn’t. That’s a decision that he made,” said Lott, per AP News.
The incident is still under investigation.
This case, like many others, requires us to revisit the conversation on how police are trained to handle mental health crises. The Treatment and Advocacy Center reported people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police. A Washington Post database found a quarter of people killed by police since 2015 battled mental illness. Part of the reason why people believe police don’t need more funding is because of these statistics, reported NPR.
Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. Injuries, too, are common although they are less carefully tracked. There’s anecdotal evidence that botched encounters between police and people in a mental crisis are up during the pandemic.
Still, many departments appear reluctant to abandon a widely-used program for handling mental health and substance abuse crisis calls, called crisis intervention teams or CITs, even though the programs have proved largely ineffective. Even some proponents and trainers of CITs now say the model has been misread and poorly implemented by many departments.
Sometimes when police are called, the calls are from concerned family members or neighbors who witness a person in the middle of a mental crises. Unfortunately, the situations are rarely deescalated successfully and result in police harming or killing the person they were supposed to help.
In 2016, police shot and injured Charles Kinsey, a mental health aid, while he tended to an autistic patient, per CBS News. In 2019, Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot and killed by police. Donald’s records showed he was diagnosed with mental illness at a young age, per Chicago Tribune. In 2021, Daniel Prude, 41, was killed by police after previously being given a behavioral evaluation, per the Associated Press. The list goes on.