After Deputies Killed Her Son, A Mother Pleads For Mental Health Training For Police

In the weeks before he died, 32-year-old Daniel Reid stopped taking his medication.

His mother, Jackie Hambrick, isn’t quite sure when, but she thinks it happened two or three weeks before he was fatally shot by Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies. There were five drugs, and Hambrick can still reel off the names: Risperdal, Vistaril and Prozac for delusions and moods. Trazodone for sleeping.

“And Topamax that was supposed to help with the weight,” Hambrick said. “You could just watch him gain, gain, gain and it was so sad. And I know that that worried him. When he was killed he was over 300 pounds, when he was normally like 220.”

Her son complained about other side effects too.

“He said, ‘Mom, it makes me feel stupid,'” Hambrick said.

In the days before his death, Reid’s delusions returned with force. He began talking about witches and murder. Hambrick left home to stay with her daughter, and together they went to probate court to request involuntary treatment for her ailing son, a process that can take weeks. A day later, Reid was killed.

A life cut short

Reid struggled with depression and anxiety since adolescence, Hambrick said, but his delusions didn’t emerge until his early 30s. Hambrick holds on to the good memories and still gives thanks for the years before his first hospitalization.

When his delusions first struck in early 2017, Hambrick didn’t know what to do. She had noticed that he’d become more isolated, but didn’t register the depth of the problem until he called her into the living room and began unspooling wild stories about murder and conspiracy.

“May the fifth, they’re coming after me, mom,” he said. “And you’ve got to take off that day. You’ve got to be here at the house that day because they’re coming to get me.”

He warned his two older sisters as well, and one of them talked him into attending a family meeting at UAB, Hambrick said. Once they arrived, his sisters walked him to the emergency room and sought admission for psychiatric evaluation. They remained by his side for 14 hours while he waited, writhing with anxiety.

“And he was very calm,” Hambrick said. “I mean, we loved him. We would have done anything to help him.”

Reid remained in the hospital for two weeks, and emerged with a diagnosis of delusional disorder – a condition that filled his mind with terrifying thoughts and proved difficult to treat. He was stable and calm for months until he decided to go off the drugs.

During the lull between his hospitalization and his death, he returned to some of the hobbies that brought him joy, including carpentry. One day, a couple months before he died, he hung a simple blue cross on the porch – right above the spot where he would be confronted and tased.

“I think it was so prophetic. You know?” Hambrick said. “So prophetic that he did that and all this happened right here.”

Off kilter and in trouble

Law enforcement officers often interact with mentally ill people when they need help. If Reid had lived long enough for a bed to open at a local psychiatric facility, a deputy probably would have picked him up and taken him there.

But in Alabama, agencies just recently adopted special training to help officers respond to calls involving mentally ill suspects. In the past two years, more law enforcement departments have begun signing up for crisis intervention training that helps officers understand mental illness and reduce conflict in high-stress situations, said Jimmy Walsh, past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Despite the uptick in training, the rate of officer-involved shootings of people with mental illness is much higher than the rate for people without mental illness. According to a database maintained by the Washington Post, five out of 25 officer-involved shootings in Alabama last year killed a person with mental illness – including Reid.

Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies receive twice the required amount of training, according to Chief Deputy Randy Christian.

“[Alabama] requires four hours of mental health training for all law enforcement officers,” Christian wrote in an email. “Our personnel are trained beyond that. They receive eight hours of training that includes dealing with mental health issues along with autism issues.”

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