14 Mentally Ill Individuals Killed by Cops in 2014


In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, a resident has filed a lawsuit alleging that local police used excessive force in dealing with her unarmed, mentally-ill husband in 2011, ultimately leading to his death. In the suit, she calls for cops to receive better training on responding to those exhibiting signs of mental illness. I recalled reading earlier this year about police "confronting a rising number of mentally ill suspects," often with disastrous results, and decided to see how many specific examples I could turn up. This list is by no means a complete, simply the results of a couple hours of Google searching. I left out any cases I came across wherein the suspect/victim had a gun. 

A (incomplete) timeline of fatal shootings of mentally-ill individuals by U.S. cops in 2014:

January 5, 2014: A North Carolina family calls 911 for help when their schizophrenic son, Keith Vidal, begins acting out. The 90-pound 18-year-old winds up dead

January 25, 2014: Lodi, California, police officers receive a call from a woman who says her brother—a veteran with PTSD—is "going crazy." Less than twenty minutes later, her brother winds up dead

March 16, 2014: Albuquerque officers fatally shoot James Boyd, a mentally-ill homeless man they're trying to prevent from camping in the foothills. 

April 2, 2014: Matthew Pollow, a 28-year-old with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is fatally shot by cops outside his mother's apartment building in Boca Raton, Florida. In a statement, investigators say Polow charged a deputy with a screwdriver before being shot. 

April 7, 2014: Tinoris Williams, a mentally-ill 31-year-old in Palm Beach, is shot in the head after struggling with an officer who mistakes him for a burglary suspect.

April 13, 2014: A Santa Clara, California, woman calls 911 to say she's suicidal. Police open fire when she answers the door holding a baseball bat, fatally wounding the 53-year-old. 

April 30, 2014: Milwaukee police fatally shoot Dontre D. Hamilton, 31, a schizophrenic who is laying face-down in the park when police arrive. 

June 6, 2014: A Norfolk, Virginia, family call 911 for help with their schizophrenic relative, 35-year-old David Latham. Latham winds up dead

June 14, 2014: A Dallas mother calls the cops for help taking her schizophrenic son, 39-year-old Jason Harrison, to the hospital. Harrison winds up dead

August 11, 2014: Los Angeles cops fatally shoot Ezell Ford, an unarmed 25-year-old suffering from unspecified mental issues. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are still unclear. 

August 14, 2014: A 19-year-old Florida California woman with bipolar disorder is fatally shot by police when they mistake a cordless drill she is holding for an Uzi. 

August 14, 2014: Phoenix police officers arrive at the apartment of Michelle Cusseaux, 50, to take her to a mental health facility under emergency court order. She has a hammer. She winds up dead

August 18, 2014: Jeffrey Towe, a Woodland, California, man with "profound mental illness," is fatally shot after cops are called to his apartment building due to him screaming. Towe allegedly charged the cops with a knife. 

August 19, 2014: St. Louis cops fatally shoot 25-year-old Kajieme Powell after he robs a convenience store of energy drinks and a pastry. Witnesses say Powell remained at the scene of the crime pacing and talking to himself until police arrived. The officers allegedly opened fire when Powell began walking toward them with a knife, shouting for the officers to "shoot me now."

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  1. License to kill.

  2. Calling in the authorities seldom makes things better.

    1. True. That’s why there needs to be more policies in place as well training to handle these difficult situations.

  3. So what you’re saying is we should always call the cops.

  4. Well, when you sum it up like that, there’s clearly no problem!

    I imagine cops deal with the mentally ill frequently. The problem is, the cops who don’t know how to do it, or who are easily frightened and defensive are not identified and kicked out.

  5. It must be scary being a cop. I mean, everything is a threat, and I mean everything. Being that the only thing they care about is their persona safety, and the fact that they view everything and everyone as a threat, it’s no surprise that they do what they do.

    1. *personal*

    2. In the latest case, the guy had a knife.

      I think it’s pretty clear that a crazy guy with a knife is a threat…

      1. Yeah, and a 90-lb schizo with a screw driver against THREE cops needs to be put down (while being restrained by TWO) while the cop who shoots him says “We don’t have time for this”. Because, THREAT!!!
        That NC incident was just the worst…

      2. I think it’s pretty clear that a crazy guy with a knife is a threat

        Just like barking dogs, toy gun wielders and surprised motorists.

        Cops routinely kill crazy-people-with-knives who are only threatening themselves. Usually in the crazy person’s own home. If there is any overt threat directed to anyone else it is almost always “don’t try to take away this knife I’m threatening to cut myself with”.

        When cops kill crazy people with knives it is usually murder because of teh training.

        1. Not too long ago round here there was a standoff where a guy was at home with a kitchen knife standing in his doorway, refusing to obey orders. So the cops opened fire. This was caught on television even. Guy was standing still, not rushing the officers or anything. But he was threatening them by failing to obey. I mean, cops are used to people obeying them, and when someone doesn’t it makes them scared. So they killed him.

          Nothing else happened.

          1. I’m working out of Duluth/Superior and 2 weeks ago some guy was barricaded in his basement superficially cutting himself. The cops were called, they went into the basement, tore down his barricade, ordered him to drop the knife, then shot him several times for failing to obey. None of the news coverage suggested he threatened the cops or anyone else. He was only cutting himself.

            1. Officers responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in the 3200 block of Piedmont Avenue just before 4 a.m. A woman said her 34-year-old husband had cut himself with a knife and was bleeding.

              Police say the man locked himself in a basement room and blood was visible on the floor. Officers say they heard the man say he wanted to die and that he thought he had a half-hour left before he would bleed out.

              Officers forced the door open and deployed a canine, but police say the man refused to drop the knife. An officer then fired his weapon, striking the man.


            2. SV it is clear that the cops had to kill him to prevent him from doing harm to himself.

        1. What the fuck?!?

        2. Obey or die. That’s the country we live in.

          1. I don’t live in England but I can see the wave headed this way if this is the new norm in “Jolly” Olde England.

    3. That’s because they are scared little pussies… like a rabbit with a nervous disorder but that knows how to operate a gun.

  6. July 4th Wichita Kansas, Icarus Randolf..

    When officers arrived, family members said 26-year-old Icarus Randolph was acting distraught and out of control.

    That’s when police say Randolph came out of the house and walked aggressively, straight toward one of the officers. That officer used his Taser, but it did not stop him. When the officer noticed Randolph had a knife in his hand, he pulled his service weapon and shot him in the chest.

    Randolph died a short time later.

    I live close and heard the shots. I had also spent the last 2 days hearing fireworks and celebratory gunfire going off all around my neighborhood.

    Mr. Randolf was a veteran and his family is quoted as saying he suffered from PTSD

  7. MORE crazy talk!!

  8. In reading the headline I got as far as “NOPD…” before thinking ‘something stinks here’.

    Body cameras are the future of policing in America.


    1. Oh, both cop and victim are black.

      How long before Sharpton and Jackson show up to lead protests in N.O.?

    2. seriously. It should be as standard-issue as handcuffs.

      1. But without the ability for the cop to just turn it off, as there.

  9. OT, probably better suited for last story, but:

    ISIS or whoever they are, are wasting their time trying to defeat the west, at least the European part of the west. Those of us across the pond here in Murika might still have a chance, but the Eurotards are busy destroying their own societies at mega retard speed:

    Brits trying very hard to prove that peak derp really is acheivable

    1. “psychological harm”?

      I don’t think the women have thought this through. The jails and prisons will be full of females.

      1. Well, only they won’t. The prisons will be full of male Limeys who don’t have anything left to lose. This cannot end well, and it won’t.

    2. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, published proposals for a new offence of “domestic abuse” designed to criminalise men who bully, cause psychological harm or deny money to their partners.

      So basically her husband made a rude comment about how he’s not paying for her 10th pair of shoes, and she retaliated by making that a crime.

      Don’t marry politicians.

  10. Wait.

    I thought the Libertarian thing was “Mental Illness Does Not Exist

    …so shouldn’t these people just be lumped in with all the other people the po-po shot?

    Just saying.

    – disclosure: My brother is schizophrenic, and has been ‘talked down’ by police (*while wielding a sharp object and being less than clothed) on at least one occasion. this sort of thing is somewhat close to home.

    1. I thought the Libertarian thing was “Mental Illness Does Not Exist”

      Hmm, *I* thought the *l*ibertarian thing was that mental illness that does not pose an immediate and significant threat to someone’s life shouldn’t be subject to involuntary detainment and treatment.

      Don’t really care what the *L*ibertarians have to say about it – half that party is straight up whackjobs.

    2. Crazy exists. It’s just not a disease. If the weirdness has an objectively identifiable testable physical cause, the patient is promptly transferred to a neurologist for treatment.

    3. That’s the first thing that jumped out at me when I read the headline, actually. Thomas Szasz and all that.

      Notice the next blog post by Doherty does not mention the man’s mental illness at all.

  11. It sounds like calling the police for help with a person you claim is mentally ill is is a more effective way to get rid of them than SWATting. Filing that tidbit away for later.

  12. Two other causes of this sort of thing:

    1) We went from a society that overused mental hospitals, for not just the dangerously crazy but for people who were depressed, rebellious, etc., to a society in which it is now too difficult to do much about obviously crazy people. So they fill the prisons and roam the streets, and often get into deadly encounters like these.

    2) Medicare and Medicaid do not allow for much reimbursement for mental health, so state mental hospitals closed down.

  13. ***Correction*** “August 14, 2014 A 19-year-old Florida woman with bipolar disorder is fatally shot” The 19 year old woman was killed in San Jose California, not Florida. Her name was Diana Showman. See ABC7 WOMAN DIES AFTER POLICE SHOOTING IN SAN JOSE or some of the earlier posts on Reason (probably just a typo).

  14. The fact that so many of the examples are in the past week (where the news stories would be fresher) certainly implies to me that there are a lot more that you couldn’t find. Thanks for the list.

    1. There are a lot more than 14 in any given year

    2. Yeah, ones from this month or this summer were much harder to come by because all the small local news pubs were coming up in Google news, which wasn’t true for anything about May and back.

  15. Here’s one that you guys missed.…..l_man.php#

    I think the number of people killed by cops each year is probably triple or quadruple the estimated number of 400ish.

  16. How many innocent people did the “mentally ill” kill in 2014?

    Betcha it was a lot more than a measely 14, that’s for sure.

    1. How many of those “mentally ill” people were a cop uniform ?

      1. wore, of course

  17. In Toronto, there was the case of Michael Eligon, whose killing in 2012 was caught on a cruiser cam.

  18. There is also this one. I know this is a bit late but I couldn’t recall the victims name and had the wrong city in mind when this post was posted , so I couldn’t find the article, then I saw this this morning and was able to find the original story.

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