The family of a reportedly mentally ill black man who was shot by police is suing the Sacramento police department after releasing cell phone video (below) of the shooting.
Joseph Mann, 51, had been homeless and suffered from mental health issues at least since 2011, following his mother's death, according to KTXL.
Police say that Mann was behaving erratically and threateningly leading up to the July 11 shooting, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to Sacramento Police Sergeant Bryce Heinlein, police received multiple calls around 9:25 a.m. from residents near the 1100 block of Lochbrae Road.
Callers reported seeing a black man in his 50s or 60s, believed to have been Mann, who was brandishing a knife and speaking incomprehensibly. The police news release says that one caller claimed the man had a gun in his waistband.
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The first officer to arrive on the scene reports that Mann charged at him holding the knife. The officer locked himself in his cruiser and called for backup, unable to leave the area because Mann was blocking the car.
Arriving shortly afterward, two backup officers chased Mann on foot after he took off running, continuing to behave in a way Heinlein called “really crazy.” He was moving back and forth and performing “karate moves” in the air, Mann family attorney John Burris wrote in the suit, according to the Daily Beast.
Mann allegedly ignored repeated commands to drop the knife.
The officers say that Mann then turned around and charged at them, who both fired their weapons. The Sacramento Police Department statement says they did so “[f]earing for their lives and the safety of the community.” Reports of the number of shots fired range from 10 shots to 18.
Police have yet to release the names of the officers involved, who have been placed on paid administrative leave.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the victim’s family disputes this version of events and says the officers used excessive force on a retreating man in mental distress. According to the lawsuit, Mann showed “overt signs of being in the midst of mental crisis.”
Police protocol calls on officers to work to de-escalate situations arising from mental health episodes, and the lawsuit says that the use of lethal force was excessive and inappropriate to the situation.
In fact, Burris, a civil rights attorney, alleges that police failed to follow sound protocol at all stages of the interaction. “You do not shout at them, you do not give them commands because they are obviously mentally impaired,” he told KTXL.
Burris said that the family wants police to release video of the incident as well as the names of the officers involved. He will also seek a federal investigation of the shooting.
The Mann family recently released cell phone footage that they say disproves the police department’s version of events, and shows Mann retreating and being shot while posing no safety threat.