The family of a Killeen, Texas, man fatally shot by police in the front yard of his home during a mental health check is calling for the officer’s arrest.
The shooting happened Sunday just before 5:30 p.m. when the family of Patrick Warren Sr., a Black man, called police to ask that a mental health professional be sent to the home.
Instead, an officer who was “was not prepared to handle a mental health crisis” responded to the call, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Merritt, who is representing the family, said the officer’s demeanor was “hostile” and he quickly escalated the situation.
The events leading up to the shooting remain unclear.
The Killeen Police Department said that officer Reynaldo Contreras was sent to the home in response to a psychiatric call. When Contreras arrived he “encountered an emotionally distressed man,” according to a police statement.
The officer used his “conducted energy weapon” on Warren but it was not effective, police said. He then used his gun, striking the 52-year-old man. Warren died at a hospital from his injuries.
Killeen police have not said why Contreras fired his weapon. The department did not return a request for comment Thursday and Contreras also could not be reached.
The Texas Rangers, which is handling the investigation into the shooting, said that any additional information will be “coordinated by the District Attorney’s Office and the Killeen Police Department.”
The moments before and after the shooting were caught on video, which Merritt shared Wednesday on his Twitter page.
In video captured by a Ring doorbell camera, the officer knocks on the front door and is told to come inside. After a few moments, Contreras leaves the home followed by Warren, who is waving his hands in the air.
The officer is heard asking Warren to get down on the ground. Someone in the home yells for Contreras to not shoot. Warren walks toward the officer and out of view of the camera.
Another video, apparently filmed on a cell phone, shows Warren get up off the ground and walk forward out of view of the camera. A man yells for Warren to “sit down.” Several shots can be heard in the video.
“No! I told you don’t use a gun,” the man screams.
Merritt said that the family had called police on Saturday, the day before the shooting, because of a mental health concern involving Warren.
A mental health resource officer responded and Warren voluntarily agreed to go to the hospital for evaluation. He later returned home.
The family called police again the following day because they were still concerned about Warren, Merritt said. They asked Contreras to leave because they wanted the resource officer who had previously responded.
“There’s no reason that a mental health call like this should result in a fatality. Mr. Warren was not aggressive. Mr. Warren was not armed. He was in his home; he was on his lawn. He was within his rights to reject the services of law enforcement after they arrived,” the attorney said at Thursday’s press conference.
“Their responsibility was simply to leave or send the appropriate personnel to deal with this particular crisis. They failed this family in every way and it’s left them shattered.”
Warren’s wife, Bobbie, said her husband had lost his job at a local plant because of the coronavirus pandemic. He had started a landscaping business so he could provide for his family.
“Patrick was a loving husband, father and devoted man of God. As we deal with the pain of his sudden loss we are asking the community to join us in honoring his name and demanding justice,” she said in a statement shared by her attorney.
Contreras, a 5-year veteran of the Killeen Police Department, was placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice in officer-involved shootings. Merritt said the officer should be arrested immediately.
Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble said there would be a thorough investigation into the shooting. The police department is also conducting a separate Internal Affairs investigation.
“This incident is rightfully of great concern to the community. As Killeen Police Chief, it is my duty to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted so that all parties, including the public, have the answers they seek. There are many more facts in this case that are not publicly available at this time,” he said in a statement.
“I assure you that more information will be made available as soon as appropriate, and I ask for your patience as both investigations proceed.”