Deputy kills mentally ill man in scuffle

A man with a history of mental problems and drug addiction was shot and killed in a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies Tuesday morning, according to authorities and the man’s family.

About 10:50 am, two Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies knocked at the door of Allen H. Hunter, 45, ready to arrest Hunter on a felony charge of violating his probation.

…Hunter seized on deputy’s baton and used it to bludgeon him. A second deputy shot Hunter with a stun gun but the jolt did not stop him. The first deputy recovered, drew his gun and shot Hunter dead outside the house at 191 Hibiscus Tree Drive, north of Boynton Beach…The deputy who fired was treated for minor injuries.

As investigators worked at the house Tuesday afternoon, Hunter’s younger brother, Christopher, stood to one side, trying to make sense of what had happened.

“All the confrontations he had with the police,” said Christopher Hunter, 37. “They knew he was sick. They knew he was bipolar.”

Christopher Hunter described his brother as a “very intelligent” man who struggled with mental illness. He said Allen Hunter eventually turned to drugs and was capable of cocaine binges that lasted three days.

–The Palm Beach Post, March 24, 2010

It is too early to pass judgment here, on the deputies or Allen Hunter. A man with bipolar disorder in the throes of mania and strung out on cocaine has super-natural strength and super stupid judgment. Imagine how disorientating it was for the cops? A person who knows you have a gun, grabs your baton and starts beating you with it, all within sight of your partner — who also has a gun.

I mean, come on, what kind of person would do that in the face of that kind of odds — two against one — and that kind of fire power? Answer: A person with bipolar in the throes of a manic episode who is wigged out on cocaine. What the article does not tell us is whether the officers had completed the department’s Crisis Intervention Training — a program designed to teach law enforcement how to handle the mentally ill.

I want to know because here in Palm Beach County this has happened before, so I have a lot of questions. First, did anyone tell the officers that they would be arresting a man with a long, documented record of mental illness and an equally long rap sheep, which included an arrest last year for battery on a law enforcement officer?

I also want to know if the officers had completed a course for law enforcement for dealing with the mentally ill? CIT — Crisis Intervention Training — is a 40-hour course that teaches law enforcement how best to deal with the mentally ill. As of last fall, only 300 of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office 1,600 officers had completed the training.

I am also hoping someone can explain why CIT is not MANDATORY for every cop and deputy? Most inmates in our jails and prisons have an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness (remember, alcoholism IS a mental illness). So, why isn’t this training mandatory?

Think of it this way: If you owned a business and you KNEW that your employees would often have to deal with agitated customers with mental illness, wouldn’t you make sure that your employees had received the best training available in dealing with agitated people with mental illnesses?

That’s not a trick question. It’s a no-brainer.