Half-naked man lunges at police with knife after setting fire to car

Likely he had mental health problems thus raising issue for more police training 

Tyler Pager,Ashley Southall
Monday 25 March 2019 11:56
Members of the New York City Police (NYPD) Counter-terrorism unit patrol stand watch in Times Square 18, March 2019 in New York City.
Members of the New York City Police (NYPD) Counter-terrorism unit patrol stand watch in Times Square 18, March 2019 in New York City.

An ordeal that ended with police officers shooting a half-naked man in Queens on Sunday afternoon began just before 3pm.

The man, who is in his 30s, first crashed his car into a police car in front of the 111th Precinct in Bayside, police said. He then doused both cars in an accelerant fluid and lit his own car on fire. As police officers approached, the man, who was not wearing pants or underwear, lunged at them with a 12-inch kitchen knife.

Two police officers then fired eight gunshots, striking the man in his torso and leg. The man was transported to NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens hospital, where he remained in a stable condition Sunday night. The two officers were also transported to a hospital to be evaluated.

Police did not identify the man but said he was not previously known to the officers in the precinct.

Rodney Harrison, the Police Department’s chief of patrol, said at a news conference that it was likely the man had “some mental issues.”

In recent years, the department has tried to increase training for officers about how to handle situations involving emotionally disturbed people. But less than 12,000 of the city’s nearly 37,000 officers have gone through the training. Emergency calls for those situations have nearly doubled over the last decade, to about 179,000 last year, according to the police.

Officers are often unaware if a person is mentally ill when they respond to a call.

On 5 March police officers responding to a 911 call in Harlem shot a man, Michael Cordero, after he claimed he was armed and then lunged at them with an item in his hand that turned out to be a wallet. Mr Cordero had several previous arrests, and his family said he was being treated for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Last year, the attorney general’s office began investigating the police killing of Saheed Vassell, who in April was fatally shot by officers who mistook the pipe he was holding for a gun. Mr Vassell had bipolar disorder, and his family said that police at his local precinct knew of his condition.

NYPD tackle and rescue man threatening to jump from RFK Bridge in New York

In both of those cases, police have said, the responding officers were unaware of the men’s mental histories.

The city adopted crisis intervention training in 2015 but has been slow to roll it out. Police officials have said they need more money to accelerate training, and Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $5.3 million in his recent budget proposal to train more officers.

On Tuesday the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, will testify in front of City Council about ThriveNYC, a nearly $1 billion plan to address mental health in New York City. Despite Mr de Blasio touting the programme, which Ms McCray oversees, as “revolutionary,” it has faced questions about its effectiveness.

The New York Times

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