A New York City police officer shot and critically wounded a man on Friday who officials said was in mental distress and holding scissors and a 12-inch kitchen knife outside an assisted living home in the Bronx.
The episode occurred after officers responded to a 911 call, officials said. When the officers arrived, the man, who was holding the scissors and the knife, raced toward them and then toward another man who was standing nearby, officials said.
The officers told the man to drop the scissors, but he did not, officials said. Instead, he turned and sprinted toward one of the officers, who fired three shots, hitting the man twice, officials said.
“This situation was fast, volatile and dangerous,” said John Chell, the Police Department’s chief of patrol, at a news conference, adding: “We stopped a threat to this community.”
The encounter was captured by officers’ body-worn cameras, and Chief Chell said police officials had watched the footage but did not make it publicly available for review. The man, whom the police did not identify beyond saying he was 39, was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Chief Chell said police officials believed the man was from the facility, and that he had “four prior arrests and a documented mental history in our department.”
Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate, said in an interview that he hoped the footage from the encounter would be “released sooner rather than later,” and he questioned whether the man had received adequate mental health services.
Mr. Williams said he hoped to see a new approach to handling such calls that did not involve the police responding first, “even when there are scissors involved.”
“If police or law enforcement is needed, they can always be called in,” he said, “but it seems that when they are called in first, we see problems arise.”
The shooting came less than a month after officers shot another man who was in mental distress and holding a knife in the Bronx. In that instance, officers shot the man, Raul de la Cruz, within 28 seconds of responding to a 311 call from Mr. de la Cruz’s father, who had requested medical care for his son after arguing with him. The younger Mr. de la Cruz remained unconscious for days after the shooting.
“This is only the most recent tragic shooting of someone experiencing a mental health crisis by New York City police officers,” said Marinda van Dalen, a senior staff lawyer with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest who is representing Mr. de la Cruz’s family. Ms. van Dalen said the shooting demonstrated “the need for a non-police response in New York City.”
The use of police officers to respond to calls involving people experiencing mental health crises has come under scrutiny in New York and elsewhere around the country because of how often such encounters turn deadly.
In New York in 2019, police officers fatally shot a Bronx fitness instructor who had struggled with mental health problems. The officers involved in the shooting face a disciplinary trial next week. Officers also fatally shot a man who was known to be mentally ill in 2018.
When police officers respond to calls about emotionally distressed people with sirens and lights flashing, and surround them while making demands of them, Ms. van Dalen said, tensions can escalate quickly.
“There are alternatives and they are working in other communities,” she said.
A relatively new program in New Jersey is meant to prevent such encounters from turning deadly by pairing police officers with certified mental health screeners.
But in New York City, officers are often the first to respond to people in mental distress. The police responded to just over 171,000 calls involving what are referred to as emotionally disturbed people, or E.D.P.s, in 2022, compared with about 158,000 such calls in 2021, according to department data.
The shooting on Friday was the latest of several by the police recently, including three on April 13 alone. The shootings that day involved an armed man at a Bronx subway station; a man who had stabbed a security guard in Queens; and a 78-year-old Brooklyn man whose nephew had called the police to say he thought there was a burglar in his uncle’s home. The man shot in that instance died.
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