Police shooting of disturbed man prompts training questions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut prosecutor who says that a fatal police shooting of a suicidal, knife-wielding man was justified, also says the state should consider more police training on how to deal with emotionally disturbed people.

The man, 27-year-old Daniel Reyes, had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and was killed outside his Thomaston apartment June 26 in what the medical examiner determined was a suicide by provoking police.

In an interview, state prosecutor Brian Preleski said he suggested a training review because of mounting examples of the risks in such encounters, for the disturbed individuals as well as police.

Related: Man shot and killed by police in Thomaston

“It’s an absolute tragedy,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a terrible tragic loss for Mr. Reyes’ family. That’s why I think we owe it to everybody to simply make sure we are staying up on the best possible practices nationally in terms of dealing with these situations.”

A study published by the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center in 2015 showed that police are 16 percent more likely to shoot and kill mentally ill suspects than other suspects.

On the night he was killed, Reyes called 911 to report lives were in danger, left a note on a table, and went outside with a knife. Reyes, who lived with his mother, suffered from hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia and had been refusing to take prescribed medications, according to the prosecutor’s report.

The first officer to arrive remained inside his cruiser as he talked to Reyes, who grew agitated at the officer’s refusal to get out of the vehicle.

Another officer arrived, drew his gun and ordered Reyes to drop the knife. The officer attempted to retreat to his cruiser but it was locked. As Reyes advanced on the officer, the officer shot Reyes once in the chest.

Reyes’ mother, Rosemary Reyes, said her son might still be alive if police had handled the situation differently.

“They could have tried to de-escalate the situation somehow and talk calmly,” she said. “It’s devastated my life.”

The discussion of training in Preleski’s March 17 report on the shooting was not meant as a critique of the police, he said. He declined to comment on whether training or a different approach could have produced a different result.

In the report, he concluded that the state’s Division of Criminal Justice may consider a review of the nature and quantity of training on dealing with mentally disturbed people. He noted many of the small municipal police departments around Connecticut do not have the resources to have trained, crisis-intervention patrol specialists on hand.

Mark Dupuis, a division spokesman, said the office is prepared to work with other agencies to ensure law enforcement personnel in Connecticut have training consistent with the emerging best practices.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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