Critics say that only 13 percent of New York City police officers are trained to deal with emotionally disturbed people, leading to their unnecessary deaths at law enforcement hands.
James Owens of Brooklyn wrestled with addiction and mental illness as he tried to eke out a normal life. “(He) was gunned down like a wild animal in his own home,” John Martin said about his 63-year-old uncle, who was shot and killed as he confronted police with a knife in January. “He was supposed to be protected.” Martin joined 200 others in condemning police violence against the mentally ill during a rally on Saturday, the New York Daily News reports. Many in attendance had relatives who suffered the same fate as Owens, who was shot in the head, neck and chest by cops even though he stood more than 10 feet away from them. Police were called when Owens, who was having an adverse reaction to his new medication, became agitated and began acting erratically. Cops Tasered Owens, but when that didn’t work, they shot him, authorities said.
Holding signs that read, “NYPD don’t kill the mentally ill,” the crowd marched to a nearby police station. The march was organized by attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who is representing four families who had mentally ill family members killed by police. “Only 13 percent of NYPD officers have been trained how to deal with emotionally disturbed people,” he said. “That is unacceptable for the people of New York. One hundred percent of police officers must be trained to deal with emotionally disturbed people. When a family calls 911 for help they don’t want to see their loved one killed by police.” Some 5,653 out of the 23,000 cops on patrol have received special training on how to handle the mentally ill.