'I Can’t Breathe Until I Know Justice is Happening': Son of Unarmed Black Man Killed by Texas Cop Speaks Out

Illustration for article titled 'I Can’t Breathe Until I Know Justice is Happening': Son of Unarmed Black Man Killed by Texas Cop Speaks Out
Screenshot: KCEN-TV 6

If I’m ever having any sort of mental breakdown, don’t call the police.

Of course, that request wouldn’t have saved the life of 52-year-old Patrick Warren Sr. of Killeen, Texas, who was fatally shot by a police officer responding to a call Warren’s family said they made to authorities expecting a mental health professional to come to Warren’s aid.

As The Root previously reported, Warren—who had recently lost his job due to the pandemic—was shot and killed by Reynaldo Contreras of the Killeen Police Department. Warren’s family said they called 911 the day before because Warren had been behaving strangely. That day a mental health resource officer responded to the family’s call and that ended in Warren voluntarily going to the hospital and then later returning home. That didn’t happen when Contreras—who is currently on administrative leave pending investigation—came to the family’s residence.

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The altercation was partially captured by a Ring doorbell camera on the family’s home. Warren’s son, Patrick Warren Jr., spoke to KCEN-TV 6 about his father’s death and how he won’t rest until Contreras is arrested.

“I broke down watching it,” Warren said of the video.I’m like, ‘This can’t be happening.’”

From News 6:

“It has been hard, but I’m staying focused because it’s like my dad has a battery in my back,” Warren said. “It is almost like a fire underneath me. Until the officer is arrested, I can’t relax, I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe until I know justice is happening.”

Warren said his family moved from Bryan to Killeen two years ago. He said in a time of need his dad was always the go-to guy.

“My dad was great with his hands. My dad loves to Bar-b-que,” he said.

Civil Rights Attorney Lee Merritt is calling for a thorough investigation and for Contreras to be fired.

Meanwhile, Warren wishes things in his life could be different.

“I wish I took more pictures,” Warren said. “I wish I would have made more time. I wish I would have never called police. I wish I would have never called a mental health officer. I wish things could be different.”

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As for the shooting, Warren told News 6 that his father “had his hands up when he was being tased and was saying ‘take it by faith. Take it by faith,’” before he was shot to death.

Warren Sr.’s family members aren’t the only ones demanding justice. On Saturday, several dozen protesters gathered outside the Killeen Police Department to demand Contreras’ arrest. Warren Jr. took part in the protest, telling his father’s story to the crowd and joining them in calls for justice.

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“We are gathered here today with the community to bring change, to bring about accountability,” Bryan King, founder of Brothers Against Community Crimes (BACC) said during the demonstration, according to News 6. “We want peace, but we want accountability. We want to know that we can call on the authorities and know that our people are taken care of. I’m not here to say who is right or who is wrong, but more than one person is affected by this. Our community is affected by this.”

“It could have been my dad. It could have been your brother. It could have been your neighbor,” protester Sadale Johnson said. “We want the police officer to be arrested first and foremost. All we are asking for is accountability for the police.”

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It’s been explained ad nauseam that the “defund the police” movement is about shifting funds from police departments and allocating them to other things such as social work and mental health resources. States and cities have seen the effectiveness of sending mental health professionals to answer emergency 911 calls where there is no perceived threat of violence.

Warren’s death shows how necessary it is to leave cops out of certain emergency calls. But until legislators and law enforcement across the nation get the picture, just don’t call the police if I have a mental break down.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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