When a police officer uses deadly force, their actions immediately come under scrutiny: Was the force justified? Was the suspect indeed a threat? Could the incident have been handled in another way? Often these questions don't have clear and straightforward answers, which can be frustrating for law enforcement officials, families and friends of victims, and the public at large.
In addition to the victims and their loved ones, being involved in a shooting can have serious ramifications for the entire community. This is especially true as law enforcement officers face heightened scrutiny amid protests surrounding recent incidents of police brutality, and the fallout can be especially devastating when the victim of a police shooting has a mental illness.
When Decisions Become Deadly
One family in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania, has experienced many of these challenges firsthand, including public outcry. When a police officer responded to a 911 call for a "domestic disturbance," he shot and killed 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz, who came out of the house and ran toward the officer with a knife.
This was not Munoz's first run-in with the law. He was free on bail at the time of his death, awaiting trial for four counts of aggravated assault. According to police, all four people injured in the stabbing incident last March required hospitalization, including a 16-year-old boy. Munoz was also admitted to an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program in 2016 after being charged with stalking, defiant trespassing, and harassment.
Still, Munoz may not have been entirely to blame for his behavior. He had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder diagnoses, illnesses that often left him paranoid and moody, and his sister reported that he had not been taking his medications. Following his death, the officer responsible for the shooting was placed on administrative leave.
Outraged community members also flooded the streets after the shooting to participate in protests that occasionally turned violent, even though it was clear from the officer's bodycam footage that Munoz had threatened the officer with a knife. Protesters said they were discouraged by the police department's response to a case involving someone who has a mental illness.
What Happens When Mental Illness Contributes to Criminal Behavior?
If you are diagnosed with or receiving treatment for mental illness and are arrested for a crime, this information is critical for your defense. It's essential to meet with an experienced attorney to understand how a diagnosed mental illness can impact or mitigate the charges against you, as well as options for treatment that may be available instead of incarceration.
The impact of criminal charges can affect many areas of a person's life, future, and career. If you have mental illness and you've been charged with a crime, it's important to understand all of the possible implications. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate this challenge. Call us today at (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.