BALTIMORE — On Thursday, Baltimore City Police released body worn camera footage of what led up to two officers shooting a man.
Family members called 9-1-1 and told them he was in the basement having a mental health episode.
For several minutes three officers talked to the man whose been identified as Ricky Walker Jr.
When Walker Jr. Pulled a gun out of his pocket and aimed at an officer, two of the officers shot him.
“Unfortunately these types of instances are not new or rare,” said Adrienne Breidenstine.
Adrienne Breidenstine is the Vice President of Policy and communications for Behavioral Health System Baltimore.
“The video was upsetting to see, but it made clear to us how valuable having a mental health response along with the police response along with EMS, how much that was needed in this particular incident,” she said.
Breidenstine said mental health treatment services or case management or adequate housing is what prevents theses crises from happening.
“Somewhere there was a breakdown in our systems.”
She says a mental health clinician would have had a lot to offer in support of police and EMS.
She added that a police presence can often escalate things— but she also acknowledged they are needed when a firearm and threats of violence are involved.
“The man was in a basement in a corner. I could imagine how he literally felt cornered, and that’s an ideal situation to have somebody in if they are in the middle of a crisis. Mental health clinicians know in particular if they are dealing with somebody who has a history of violence or having a history of these crisis to not have any kind of therapeutic or de-escalation session in a closed environment like that.”
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Harrison said every officer is trained on deescalation crisis response, but not necessarily crisis intervention training.
He added that around 1500 officers including the three involved have been trained in 3 different behavioral health training's provided by BPD.
“When we have people who are armed and perhaps dangerous with the propensity to use those firearms,” Harrison said. “Where in this case we had to send in police because the medics and paramedics and EMT could not and did not go in until we rendered it safe for them to do so.”
Breidenstine Pointed to the federally mandated Consent Decree that requires that overall police reduce their interactions with people with disabilities.
“In particular people who may be having a mental health crisis,” Breidenstine said.
Commissioner Harrison acknowledged that Walker was the same man who was arrested 11 days before the July 1st incident.
On June 20, officers said Walker was naked on Loch Raven Blvd shooting at cars, just around the corner from his home where he was later shot.
According to that police report, an officer was able to arrest Walker Jr. using pepper spray.
In that report police said they tracked Walker Jr. Back to his home listed as 5809 Falkirk Drive.
When asked if more could have been done than to prevent the officer involved shooting— like a red flag trigger to take Walkers registered guns — Harrison said this.
“It did we recovered the firearm at that time we had no fixed address for this individual so there were no addresses and we don’t believe it was the same caller," said Harrison. “Since we had no fixed address or permanent residence for him there was no place to go and search for other weapons, but he was given a mental evaluation that night.”
Police recovered 8 firearms in total from the two incidents.
Two of them were registered to Walker.
Harrison was pressed on whether more could have been to get registered guns out of a mans hands who was arrested for shooting at cars just 11 days earlier during a mental health crisis.
“We found out this time that he was only diagnosed after that incident but there was no pre-diagnosis after that, at least that’s what we’ve been briefed on.”
In that time period, Walker Jr. was evaluated released and eventually shot after aiming a gun at police. A gun, he still legally owned.
“Typically what we would want to see upon discharge from a hospital is that this person is connected to ongoing care in the community, and I don’t know if that happened,” Breidenstine said. “I don’t know if this individual has a connection to a mental health therapist for example.”
Breidenstine said her organization is working closely with police to look into changes into dispatch and police training.
Commissioner Harrison said they are about to roll out a 40 hour crisis intervention training.
Walker is facing assault charges and as of Thursday was at the hospital in stable condition.