Unarmed Black Man Fatally Shot by Texas Police Officer Responding to Mental Health Check

Illustration for article titled Unarmed Black Man Fatally Shot by Texas Police Officer Responding to Mental Health Check
Screenshot: @MeritLaw/ Twitter

Over the weekend, an unarmed Black man was fatally shot by a police officer in Killeen, Texas, after the officer responded to a call for a mental health check. Part of the confrontation that led to the shooting, as well as the family’s devastating reaction to it, was recorded by the Ring camera on the residence the officer was called to. Now, the family is calling for that officer to be arrested.

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NBC News reports that Patrick Warren Sr., 52, was shot Sunday just before 5:30 p.m. Warren’s family reportedly called for a mental health professional, not a cop, to be sent to the family’s home.

Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt—who said at a press conference Thursday that the officer “was not prepared to handle a mental health crisis,” was “hostile” and that he quickly escalated the situation—is representing Warren’s family.

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On Wednesday, Merritt tweeted video footage of the incident captured by the family’s doorbell camera. Content warning: While the actual shooting happens off-camera, the family’s reaction still makes the video a hard watch.

The officer is seen in the video ringing the doorbell and then entering the home. Moments later he exited the residence followed by Warren who can be seen waving his arms around while approaching the officer. In video footage recorded outside of the home by a cell phone, a voice can be heard shouting at Warren to “sit down,” just before shots are heard. After the shots, a man is heard shouting, “No! I told you don’t use a gun!”

From NBC:

The Killeen Police Department said that officer Reynaldo Contreras was sent to the home in response to a psychiatric call. When Contreras arrived he “encountered an emotionally distressed man,” according to a police statement.

The officer used his “conducted energy weapon” on Warren but it was not effective, police said. He then used his gun, striking the 52-year-old man. Warren died at a hospital from his injuries.

Killeen police have not said why Contreras fired his weapon. The department did not return a request for comment Thursday and Contreras also could not be reached.

The Texas Rangers, which is handling the investigation into the shooting, said that any additional information will be “coordinated by the District Attorney’s Office and the Killeen Police Department.”

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“There’s no reason that a mental health call like this should result in a fatality,” Merritt said at the press conference, NBC reports. “Mr. Warren was not aggressive. Mr. Warren was not armed. He was in his home; he was on his lawn. He was within his rights to reject the services of law enforcement after they arrived. Their responsibility was simply to leave or send the appropriate personnel to deal with this particular crisis. They failed this family in every way and it’s left them shattered.”

Merritt said that the family had called 911 the day before the shooting out of concern for Warren’s mental health. Warren’s wife, Bobbie Warren, said he had recently lost his job at a local plant due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that he’d started a landscaping business to provide for his family. A mental health resource officer responded to the family’s first call and that ended in Warren voluntarily agreeing to go to the hospital for evaluation, after which he returned home.

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The family called again the following day because they were still concerned about Warren, Merritt said. They asked Contreras to leave because they wanted the resource officer who had previously responded—and with good reason, apparently.

“Patrick was a loving husband, father and devoted man of God,” Bobbie said in a statement provided through her attorney. “As we deal with the pain of his sudden loss we are asking the community to join us in honoring his name and demanding justice.”

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Contreras, who has been with the Killeen Police Department for five years, was placed on administrative leave. Police Chief Charles Kimble said in a statement that there would be a thorough investigation into the shooting and that the department is also conducting a separate Internal Affairs investigation.

“This incident is rightfully of great concern to the community,” Kimble said. “As Killeen Police Chief, it is my duty to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted so that all parties, including the public, have the answers they seek. There are many more facts in this case that are not publicly available at this time. I assure you that more information will be made available as soon as appropriate, and I ask for your patience as both investigations proceed.”

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

DISCUSSION

I can’t even joke, not even a dark and sarcastic one. This was horrific. This is why we need to defund the police. Mental health and welfare checks need to be conducted by medical personnel. We should spend the police money on those instead. That cop was incompetent, at very best. Incompetent and scared people should not be allowed to be police. My sympathies are with the family in this time.