Video of Fatal Shooting of Mentally Ill Man by Dallas Police Reignites Debate About Police Force

police brutality

Police shootings have never been far from the news headlines since the riots in Ferguson, MO last year.

The fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer led to months of disturbances in Ferguson and the criminal justice system came under fire.

In Dallas the shooting of Jason Harrison by police last year, is continuing to be the cause of controversy.

Last week the release of a video of the fatal shooting by Dallas police of the mentally ill man who was holding a screwdriver, reignited concerns over the use of police force.

The family of Harrison who was shot and killed outside his house by Dallas police has released the disturbing video of the fatal confrontation as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit they filed against the police department.

“Depending on your point of view, the graphic footage shows cops badly bungling what should have been a routine attempt to subdue Jason Harrison, as his family contends, or it validates the officers’ insistence that they were justified in killing the 38-year-old last summer,” reported the New York Daily News.

Harrison was bipolar and schizophrenic. The video showed him lunging at police officers with a screwdriver.

“This is a perfect video for the Dallas Police Department to use in training as an example of what not to do,” the dead man’s older brother Sean Harrison told The Dallas Morning News. “You don’t yell at them — that only agitates them.”

A former police department trainer had a different view. “They did an absolutely perfect job,” said Keith Wenzel, a retired Dallas Police Department trainer in the Dallas Morning News report. He said he would show students the video of the shooting as an example of good tactics.

The Dallas Morning News reported another police instructor said she planned to use the video to teach students what they should not do.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cecile Tebo, the former commander of the New Orleans Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team was quoted as saying, “That was handled very poorly.”

The family says it wants the video to lead to changes in the way Dallas police handle such situations. Sean Harrison says his younger brother would still be alive if the officer had negotiated calmly with him to drop the screwdriver, instead of shouting at him with their guns drawn.

The family obtained the video as part of a wrongful-death lawsuit it has filed against the city in the wake of Jason Harrison’s death.

Harrison’s mother had called 911 on June 14, 2014 to ask that officers come to her home to help transport Harrison, who his family said was bipolar and schizophrenic and off his medication, to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Officers Andrew Hutchins and John Rogers, who both received training dealing with the mentally ill people, shot Harrison five times after he disobeyed their commands to put down the screwdriver. Both officers have returned to full duty as they await a grand jury review and an internal investigation into whether they violated any police department policies.

Claims that police officers used excessive force have dominated the political agenda over the last 12 months. It’s always tragic when a situation like this gets out of control and the life of one of the most vulnerable members of our society is lost.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.