Suicidal Man With Mental Illness Killed By Police In Front of His Mother After She Called 9-1-1 to Save Him

A schizophrenic Minnesota man who was recently released from the hospital for mental health issues and was awaiting a space in an inpatient facility was shot and killed by police on Thursday night after his mother called 9-1-1 for help.

Phillip Quinn, a 30-year-old man with a two-month-old baby, had been released from a hospital just last week, where he was receiving help managing his schizophrenia.  He was attempting to voluntarily get himself committed for more long-term treatment, but could not find a facility with enough space.

On Thursday afternoon, the St. Paul police were called into his neighborhood on reports of someone “freaking out” and “going crazy.” Unable to locate the person, the police left.

Later, Quinn’s fiancee called his mother to alert her that he had not been taking his medication and had tried to cut himself.  Alarmed, his mother went to his house and called for an ambulance for help.  Quinn’s fiancee’s sister told CBS:

“Whatever was in his hand, he would not drop, my sister [Quinn’s fiancee] said he was given a command and within seconds afterward she heard four to six shots.”

His brother Jestin Quinn told The Star Tribune:

“The cops knew that there was a suicide/mental health call and that they were supposed to help,” he said. Instead, “they shot him in front of his mother. “He was hurting himself. He wasn’t hurting anybody else …[they] did not have to use lethal ammunition.”

Sadly, cases like Quinn’s are far from uncommon, as officers across the country often choose force over empathy when dealing with people in the midst of a mental health crisis.  Many blame the quick trigger fingers on lack of training on how to handle those with mental illnesses or disabilities.

Interestingly, the St. Paul Police Department, unlike many others, has offered crisis intervention team (CIT) training to it’s officers for more than ten years, and is also requiring it of new recruits.  CIT training specifically teaches officers how to deescalate situations, and how to better handle calls that involve people suffering from a mental crisis.

A study released last year by the American Psychiatric Association found that CIT-trained officers “had sizable and persisting improvements in knowledge, diverse attitudes about mental illnesses and their treatments, self-efficacy for interacting with someone with psychosis or suicidality, social distance stigma, de-escalation skills and referral decisions.”

While it has been offered for a decade, it is unclear if the officer involved in this shooting actually took the initiative to become certified, as it only became mandatory for new recruits this year.  The decision came after it was revealed in March that the department had killed more people than any other in the state since 2009.

“CIT does go against normal police training of ‘I’m here to take control, I have authority, you need to listen to me.’ … It teaches what those other options [are],” Steve Wickelgren of the Minnesota CIT Officer’s Association told The Star Tribune in March.

The officer who killed Quinn has been placed on a three-day paid administrative leave.  His name has not been released to the public.

Featured image via The Star Tribune