Fifty-six seconds into the video, Jason Harrison’s mother is seen opening the door to two police officers, telling them that her son is “off the chain” right now. She had called them to help admit him to a mental hospital. “Bipolar, schizo,” she tells them as she calmly walks out of the house.
By the 1:09 mark in the video—a mere 13 seconds later—police have shot and killed her son just outside the doorway to his Dallas home, as he held onto a screwdriver an officer told him to drop.
Watch the video below. Warning: it is very graphic:
This troubling incident, from June of last year, was captured on an officer’s body camera. The footage was released yesterday by Geoff Henley, the attorney representing Harrison’s family in a lawsuit against the city.
The incident marks the first time the body cam of a Dallas Police Department officer captured a fatal, police-involved shooting, the Dallas Observer reports.
Harrison’s mother Shirley had often called the police to help with her mentally ill son, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In the past, the police had helped admit her son into mental institutions, Harrison’s brother David said in a press conference yesterday.
“I just don’t want to believe it’s acceptable in Dallas, Texas, that [this is] how we treat mentally ill people in this town,” David said of the shooting and the accompanying video.
The officers involved with the shooting received five days administrative leave. Police chief David Brown said that the footage, previously unseen by the public, shows that the officers’ actions were justified.
This case bears a striking resemblance to last month’s police-involved shooting of Lavall Hall, a 25-year old Miami Gardens native who suffered from the same mental conditions. Similarly, Hall’s mother called the police to help take her son to a mental hospital, only to have him get shot by police moments after their arrival. The family is involved in a legal dispute to get the dash cam footage from that shooting released.
“Why did they take my child’s life when I called for help?” Hall’s mother said at the time.
In a report last month, Fusion detailed the longstanding and underreported issues that police have in dealing with people with mental illnesses.
About ten percent of the calls police receive are for individuals with a mental illness, Michael Woody, President of CIT International, an organization that trains officers on how to interact with the mentally ill, estimated.
“As an officer you need to know that there is a different protocol when dealing with someone who is sick,” Woody told Fusion. “We tell [officers]: no matter how irate they are, keep a civil tone, speak slower and lower than them, and try to gain their trust. Usually you can end up having a good conversation with them.”
Unfortunately police interactions with the mentally ill often end up in tragedies.
“At least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems,”a recent joint report from the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs’ Association estimated.