When law enforcement and the mentally ill come in contact it can be fatal. It was for 26 year old Michael Blair who died in a hail of bullets Monday night.
"I just wanted him to come out of the bathroom but not in a body bag." Said mother Kimberley Oleniyi.
Michael was schizophrenic. He had locked himself in his grandmother's bathroom and was threatening suicide. The family says they called three mental health agencies who all told them to call 9-1-1. They did. When deputies arrived they tried to coax him out of the bathroom. He finally came out wielding a knife. Deputies say he lunged at them. First they tased him. When he kept coming they opened fire. Suicide by cop? We will never know.
The family held a demonstration outside the sheriff's office demanding an investigation.. and a change in how county law enforcement deals with the mentally ill.
"This is not about race. This is about a person who was mentally ill, sick. The police officers were not properly trained, did not have the resources that they needed in a county the size of Ft. Bend County to assist any family that called for help." Said activist Quanell X.
They want Ft. Bend to form a crisis intervention team or C-I-T.. The Houston Police Department has one. Harris County does too. Typically they consist of a law enforcement officer and a mental health professional riding together. Officers can call on them to assist with mental patients. The idea is to get the mentally ill access to the services they need without going to jail or having a fatal encounter. The teams have had such success that Harris County recently expanded its C-I-T.
Ft. Bend County says they don't have one.. But that's about to change.
"We've been working on that for several years and we finally have funding and we are in the process of activating a crisis intervention team." Says spokesperson Bob Haenel. He says they should be up and running in a month or two.