Sometimes, when families or friends don’t hear from someone for a while, they’ll call the police and ask them to do a wellness check. Basically, they just want to make sure the person in question is doing alright.
In theory, these are about as safe and routine as anything gets in law enforcement. After all, they’re not actually needing to enforce any laws. They’re just making sure some elderly person isn’t piled up on the floor with a broken hip or something.
At least, that’s in theory.
In reality, things can go sideways in just about anything a police officer does.
A Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy was “forced to use deadly force” Tuesday, killing an 88-year-old man in Florida while conducting a wellness check, police said . The victim, Ronald Ehrich, was armed .
A neighbor called authorities after noticing the garage door to Ehrich’s home had been open for two days, according to the sheriff’s department. When Deputy Officer Anastacia Castillo arrived on the scene, she entered the house and tried making contact with Ehrich.
She allegedly encountered Ehrich in a second-floor bedroom, and he brandished a firearm and threatened to shoot, police said.
Castillo was reportedly cornered and repeatedly told Ehrich that she was a deputy, but ultimately was forced to shoot the man.
I’ve got questions about this, of course, but the sheriff’s department says they’ll be releasing Castillo’s bodycam footage. Assuming it’s complete, those should be answered soon enough.
However, it seems likely that Ehrich was having some kind of mental health issue, which is why he wasn’t behaving normally, such as closing his garage. When Castillo walked into the home, she stepped into something no one could have expected.
The thing is, though, a lot of average citizens go and check on elderly friends and family, too. We knock on the door and, if no one answers and the door is unlocked, we step in and call out their names. We look around to make sure they’re not collapsed or unconscious or anything. Any of us could be cornered by someone who isn’t in their right mind, someone who doesn’t recognize us in that moment and is willing to kill us.
I pray none of you are in such a situation because that would be especially tough for someone who actually knows the elderly person. It was likely bad enough for Castillo as it stood, but if this had been someone she knew and cared about?
That’s something I don’t even want to think about.
Unfortunately, though, there are those out there who would rather that elderly person in their right mind kill you than you be able to defend yourself. After all, they don’t want people like you or me having guns in the first place.
Of course, I’m going to hope I don’t see another story like this in my lifetime because this is the epitome of tragedy. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of some horrifying trend or anything. My heart goes out to Ehrich’s family and to Deputy Castillo.