There has been an increase of law enforcement officers responding to calls about people with a mental health condition being off of their medication. These calls for service have become so prevalent that agencies have begun requiring officers to attend training on how to deal with these people. Subjects who stop taking their medication can be extremely violent. Often, they are unpredictable, lashing out without warning.
Recently, deputies in Orosi, California, received a call for service at a residence. The complainant, mother of the suspect, called 911. She stated her son, Anthony Trujillo, was schizophrenic and acting erratically.
When deputies arrived on the scene, she told them Trujillo needed to go to the hospital. One of the deputies said to her that they would need to speak to him before determining that. Once inside the house, a deputy called out to Trujillo, who was in a room with the door closed. The deputy asked Trujillo if it was okay to talk to him. Trujillo agreed, and the deputy opened the door. He was immediately struck in the head with a machete and then in the stomach. The other deputy opened fire on the suspect, shooting six times. All six rounds hit the suspect. He died on scene.
There is a mental health problem in America.
Is it too many prescription medications? Is it too many illegal drugs that have caused brain damage? Is it merely genetics, and the issue has been ignored? Is it just the depravity of man? There is no way of knowing.
Whatever the case, officers are required to attend mental health training, so they learn how to de-escalate people like Trujillo. This training allows the officer to quickly understand what may be happening and handle it on a street level until paramedics arrive.
Officers have to use some type of force on mentally ill subjects daily. I’m not saying the training doesn’t work. A large percentage of the time it does work. However, it’s not fullproof.
The video of Trujillo is a prime example. He knew when officers arrived what he wanted to do. There was no time to attempt a de-escalation.
Officers are criticized for a myriad of things, such as their demeanor, driving, the tone of voice, what they say, how they say it, how they handle a call. The list goes on and on.
Trujillo’s sister, Cynthia Trujillo, thought the officers didn’t handle the situation properly. Maybe she should watch the video. As soon as the door opened, Trujillo came out swinging with a machete. There was no time for anything else. Trujillo forced the deputy to shoot him. There was no time for reasoning. There were no other choices. The officer had to use deadly force. It is unfortunate, but that is the reality.
“There were other ways deputies could have put him down if he was not cooperating, and honestly, I think officers need to be trained better when dealing with people with mental illness,” she said.
Trujillo’s episode was violent enough for his mom to call the police. The deputies are being criticized for protecting themselves from a person with schizophrenia trying to slash them with a machete. His sister has every right to say what she want, but I have every right to say she is wrong.
Only so much training can prepare officers for a mentally ill person who is intent on hurting them.
Watch the video for yourself here.