Houston police under fire in shooting of mentally-ill amputee - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Houston police under fire in shooting of mentally-ill amputee

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The shooting death of a mentally-ill wheelchair-bound man by an Houston police officer is raising questions about how the department deals with the mentally ill.

The shooting took place early Saturday morning at a group home for the mentally ill and the mentally-ill man was a double amputee. This is not the first time the Houston Police Department officer involved in the shooting has fatally shot a suspect.

Officers were called early on Saturday morning to a disturbance at the Healing Hands group home for the mentally ill on Polk Street at Sidney.

Houston police say Officer Matt Marin shot Brian Claunch after Claunch made threats against the officers and pointed a writing pen at them.

Claunch, the wheelchair-bound double amputee, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Officer Marin shot and killed a man who came after him with a knife in 2009, according to reports. He remains on administrative leave tonight the investigation into the shooting continues.

It is a situation that brings back so many memories for Arlene Kelly, whose daughter Colleen was shot and killed by Houston police in 1999. Like victim Brian Claunch, Colleen also had a mental illness.

"Yes, it all comes back every time. It's been 13 years and it's still like yesterday," said Arlene. She says unnecessary shootings happen in Houston far too often.

"Why didn't Marin use his head? Why did he have to shoot the man? He didn't have to shoot him at all. These people are more or less helpless than the power they are faced with and most of these people are innocent," said Arlene.

Susan Denyes-Moody from the National Alliance of Mental Illness said she is fully aware that people with mental illness can act in very bizarre ways at times, her son is mentally ill, but she commends HPD and the Crisis Intervention Team they have in place.

"We work very closely with HPD. HPD has a wonderful Crisis Intervention Team, officers that are well trained in dealing with people with mental illness. I do know that when people are acting in a bizarre fashion that as a police officer it's often a difficult decision," said Denyes-Moody.

But still Arlene believes the culture within HPD needs to change.

"Mainly I think they need better training and if more attention is giving to hiring process that some of these officers wouldn't have been hired in the first place," said Arlene.

At this point, HPD has not said whether Officer Marin was trained to deal with the mentally ill.

In the meantime, if you know someone who may have a mental illness contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

On the Web:

National Alliance on Mental Illness -- http://www.nami.org/

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