PHOENIX — On Friday, the Phoenix Police Department released bodycam camera video of an officer shooting at a man at least five times who was wandering the streets with a machete.
On Sunday, May 1, police said an officer was at a gas station near 19th and Southern avenues working an unrelated call for service when a bystander notified him about a man nearby who was waving a machete and had allegedly threatened customers at a QuickTrip nearby.
Bodycam video captured the man walking south along 19th Avenue on the sidewalk waving the machete around, before eventually walking into a vacant dirt lost adjacent to the gas station.
After the officer called for backup, a second officer arrived on scene and positioned herself and her vehicle between the suspect and 19th Avenue to keep the man away from the roadway, which was busy with vehicles and pedestrians, the department said.
“Put it down,” the female officer is heard ordering the man on video, who in turn approached her and said in Spanish, “you have to believe to reveal yourself to Jesus! I am Jesus! Reveal yourself!”
The suspect did not comply with commands and continued to walk south along 19th Avenue, and eventually into the street.
A third officer arrived on scene, and with a stun bag shotgun in hand, ordered the suspect multiple times to drop the weapon.
“You have to believe to reveal yourself to Jesus!” the man yelled as he ignored commands and approached the officer with a machete in hand.
The officer shot multiple stun bag rounds at the suspect, but he continued to pace around in the middle of the street before once again approaching the officer.
That officer dropped the stun bag shotgun and fired his duty weapon, striking the suspect and causing him to fall to the ground, the department said.
When the suspect fell to the ground, he dropped the machete. Officers moved in and rendered aid until Phoenix Fire Department transported him to a local hospital, where he remains.
Handling mental health calls
The incident lasted about five minutes, from when the officer was initially notified about the machete armed suspect to when he was ultimately shot.
“Seems like a 918 issue, he’s got a machete and is threatening passing cars,” said the reporting officer over the radio when requesting backup.
That code, 918, is used by Phoenix police officers when encountering an “insane person."
Although the call involved a mentally unstable person, retired Phoenix Police Assistant Chief Andy Anderson believes the priority was the safety of the community, officers couldn’t wait for a crisis team as the man was not contained to an area and less-lethal force was not effective.
“When there’s a weapon involved, you’re back to uniform police officers,” he said. “You cannot send in a mental health professional when someone has a deadly weapon.”
Anderson said to deescalate a situation, a person has to be compliant, but that doesn’t tend to be the case when it involves a person in a mental crisis.
“Regardless of whether he was understanding English or not, I think it was very clear what that officer wanted him to do,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, he was in some sort of mental state that was not allowing him to do that.”
Anderson said police departments have gotten better at training for mental health calls but he believes more needs to get done.
“Mental health profession has to step up… because what we are dealing with is at the moment of crisis. We need help long before that,” he said.
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