Police Chief: Shooting calls attention to mental health care system

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by Chris Patterson

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee police have identified the man shot and killed by an officer on April 30, 2014, as 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says this officer-involved shooting is the result of the lack of resources offered to the mentally ill.

Around 3:30 p.m. on April 30, 2014, a Milwaukee police officer responded to a report of trouble with a subject. When the officer arrived he found Hamilton laying on the ground. A struggle between Hamilton and the officer began as the officer patted him down. Chief Flynn says the officer began using his baton to beat Hamilton, and at some point Hamilton took the baton away from the officer and beat the officer with the baton. That's when the officer pulled out his gun and began firing. Hamilton died as a result of his gunshot wounds.

Chief Flynn believes this a symptom of Milwaukee's mental health problem. Flynn says Hamilton has been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the past. Police report Hamilton has a criminal record that includes armed robbery and disorderly conduct. The Milwaukee Police Department encountered Hamilton in 2013 when he tried to commit suicide.

During a news conference, Chief Flynn told reporters most people killed by MPD officers have mental health issues. He said not enough is being done for the mentally ill, and that his department is not the solution to Milwaukee's mental health problem.

In 2013, the Milwaukee Police Department responded to 9,600 calls involving people with mental health issues.

Chief Flynn mentioned an e-mail from Governor Scott Walker on mental health awareness month. The chief says none of Walker's investments mentioned in that press release goes to the heart of Milwaukee mental health problem.

The chief is calling for a state investigation to identify the holes in the mental health system.

This is the first officer-involved shooting where an outside organization is required to perform their own investigation into a fatal police shooting. The State Department of Justice is the organization investigating this fatal officer-involved shooting.

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