Mental Health Call Results in Shooting Death of Veteran
On Tuesday, three Bexar County deputies responded to a mental health call. This was not the first call that had been made to that address. Damian Lamar Daniels had been having a mental health issue since the day before.
Monday 4:08 pm – a family member called to say that Daniels was having suicidal thoughts. Deputies showed up at Mr. Daniels’ house but he did not answer the door. So they left? What if he had been laying on the floor dead? No indication is given why they left without making some attempt to verify that he was at least alive. Maybe they did and none of the news articles mentioned it. We don’t know at this point.
Monday 10:30 pm – Mr. Daniels calls for help saying “that there was a ghost in his house and that he was feeling paranoid.” Deputies respond to the call and do make contact with Mr. Daniels but by the time they get there his mental state has already shifted again or the paranoia is making him uncomfortable with the officers. He refuses help.
Tuesday 3:48 pm – An unidentified member of Mr. Daniels’ family calls to say that Mr. Daniels was having “a paranoiac episode” and that he was “hearing and seeing things and referring to family members who had died.” According to News4SanAntonio.com, deputies “were unable to contact him.” The article does say deputies were called out so we are figuring he wouldn’t answer the door again. So they left? Again?
Tuesday 4:48 pm – “Daniels’ mother called deputies saying that he was willing to go out and talk to them.” Daniels came to the door but he obviously had a gun under his shirt. Officers tried talking to him, even bonding with him, but the efforts failed. They then tried to physically take control of Daniels. He fought back. They tazed him without much of an effect. Daniels grabbed for his gun through his shirt. Deputies wrestled with him for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, trying to keep him from pulling the gun, pleading “with Daniels to drop the gun before they themselves even took theirs out and shot him.”
So What Went Wrong?
The title of the News 4 article is, “Sheriff says he’s in ‘awe’ of how deputies handled situation resulting in death of man.” I find this to be very offensive. A man is dead. There is nothing to be in awe about.
I am not in awe of the deputies, but I also don’t blame them for what happened. I feel the blame rests solely on the shoulders of Sheriff Javier Salazar. Just like in the killing of 6-year old Kameron Prescott, this was a policy and procedure failure. Officers missed three opportunites to do something to help Mr. Daniels. From the very first call, they were informed that he was suicidal. To commit someone involuntarily, they have to be a danger to themselves or others.
Yup, suicidal sure as hell falls into the category of being a danger to yourself. So why was nothing done? Why did they walk away from a house without trying to verify the person in it was still alive? Why didn’t they see if a family member could contact him to get him to open the door? Then, when they finally do make contact after a call that Mr. Daniels made, they walk away when he refuses help. Just hours earlier deputies had been informed he was suidical. Now he is calling about ghosts and voices and they just leave? No attempt was made for an emergency detention? Does that make any damn sense?
Another call on Tuesday. Another missed opportunity to help Mr. Daniels. A fourth call and now Sgt. Damian Lamar Daniels, veteran of the United States Army, is dead.
The Buck Stops at the Top
How is it that officers don’t know how to handle a mental health call? Why would officers just walk away, after being told someone was suicidal, without trying to verify the person was alive? Why didn’t they reach out to a family member for help in making contact? Or a mental health person for help on how to try to connect with a mentally ill person? Because they didn’t know what to do and that falls on the sheriff. If everything you do is of the ‘closing the door after the horse has left the barn’ variety, then your actions cannot be called competent.
The current sheriff’s administration has shown an unbelievable degree of shortsightedness. Just two months ago, MySanAntonio.com posted an article about a news conference the sheriff gave. In that news conference, Salazar spoke about use of force. According to the article, “the incident in Atlanta in which two officers were filmed shooting and killing a black man as he ran from them prompted local leaders to take “a deep dive” into what parts of their policies may be outdated.”
So his deep dive didn’t include how they deal with people who have mental health issues? Even though there have been multiple incidents in the news of mentally ill people being killed by the police? And even after he has complained about menatlly ill people in the jail?
Apparently, none of those things encouraged him to look at his own policies on dealing with mentally ill people. That lack of foresightedness put three deputies in danger on Tuesday and cost a good man, who had the misfortune to have mental health issues, his life.