How we investigated the intersection of mental illness and police shootings

In the past two years, every fatal police shootout in New Hampshire has involved someone with a mental illness.

the To watch reviewed documents, interviewed family members and spoke with police officers and mental health experts for several months to determine why mental illness plays such an important role in deadly encounters and ways to resolve the problem.

No state agency regularly collects data on the mental status of those killed by police, which is part of the problem. Understanding the extent and nature of the problem is essential before public agencies can attempt to reduce the number of fatal encounters with law enforcement.

A To watch The analysis found that 19 of the 31 people killed by police over the past decade – over 60% – had clear indicators of mental illness. This statistic represents the analysis of 10 years of reports from the Attorney General’s office, some of which were posted publicly online and others requested by the To watch.

New Hampshire is a predominantly white state and few police shootings involve people of color, according to reports, although race was not mentioned in attorney general reviews. Mental illness is the main factor behind the deadliest shootings.

The attorney general’s office is investigating all cases in which police officers used lethal force to determine whether the use of force was legally justified. Reports often include interviews with witnesses, family members, officers involved in the shooting as well as autopsy reports and background information on the deceased.

These reports are not always perfect accounts of the shootings.

Some families of victims of police shootings have expressed concerns about whether the state’s self-proclaimed “law enforcement chief”, the attorney general, can impartially review the actions of other law enforcement personnel. order.

However, in the absence of another committee or review body examining police shootings, the reports are often the most comprehensive account of deadly police interactions available.

Some mental status determinations were made based on both attorney general reports and additional documents, such as medical documents, police reports and prosecutions, provided by family members or lawyers. representing the families concerned.

The person killed by the police was determined to have a mental illness if they met one or more of the following conditions:

â–  Family or friends interviewed by investigators stated that the person had a mental illness.

â–  The person has been successfully admitted or attempted emergency emergency admission to hospital for psychiatric treatment.

â–  The attorney general’s report explicitly stated that the person had a mental illness.

â–  Immediately before or during the encounter with the police, the person expressed suicidal thoughts.

â–  The person tried to hurt or hurt themselves during or just before the meeting.

Of the 30 fatal police shootings in the past decade, 19 involved someone with a mental illness according to this methodology.

There were three cases in which the person shot himself at the same time as the police shot them. These were not included in the final tally of fatal police shootings involving mental illness, as the coroner ultimately considered them suicides.

Of the 19 mentally ill people shot dead by police, nine were armed with loaded guns, four were armed with one or more knives, one wielded an ax and two were unarmed.

Three of them were holding something that looked like a loaded gun, like a BB gun or an unloaded gun. In the past two years, six people have been shot dead by police. the To watch analyzed five of those incidents as the investigation into the Anthony Hannon shooting – which took place on June 14, 2021 – was not complete at the time of publication.

However, a media interview revealed that shortly before Hanno and officers exchanged gunfire, he texted a close friend: “I’m sorry, I don’t want to live anymore.

Of the five cases, the To watch examined, each involved a person with a mental illness.

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