Tampa police shoot mentally ill man, family blames lack of train - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa police shoot mentally ill man, family blames lack of training

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Stan and Carol Skipper called Tampa Police to help bring their son to the hospital. Cops shot him 3 times in the back. Stan and Carol Skipper called Tampa Police to help bring their son to the hospital. Cops shot him 3 times in the back.
Stan and Carol Skipper called Tampa Police to help bring their son to the hospital. Cops shot him 3 times in the back. Stan and Carol Skipper called Tampa Police to help bring their son to the hospital. Cops shot him 3 times in the back.
David Skipper David Skipper
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - After shooting their mentally ill son in the back, the Tampa Police Department assured the dead man's parents that officers would get specialized crisis intervention team training.

An 8 On Your Side investigation learned that five years later, TPD walked away from that promise.

A lack of training cost one family dearly and appears to still be costing others.

"He needed to go to the hospital where he could be understood, where he could be appropriately treated," Stan Skipper said of his son, David.

"They shot five times, three of them hitting David. He had turned to go back into his apartment and they hit him in the back," David's mother, Carol Skipper remembers.

The Skippers called Tampa Police the night of November 9, 1998 to help them take their paranoid schizophrenic son, David to the hospital. They had successfully Baker Acted David on 19 other occasions.

David was one of six children. Carol describes her son as gentle, very intelligent, a kind man, until he went off his medication.

"Even his eyes changed, I mean he had big soft brown eyes and they would get cold and hard," Carol said.

During his psychotic episodes, David was delusional. He believed his father was Satan and his grandfather was the king of England.

The Skippers remember police approached David's apartment and loudly pounded on the door. He pushed a table against the door. The police called David on the telephone. His mother claims he pulled the phone wires and turned out the lights in his apartment.

Carol says the police then shined spotlights into David's apartment.

"When they saw him go to the kitchen and get out a little steak knife and a barbeque fork, it became a whole different scenario. He was no longer a patient to be transported to the hospital, he was now a criminal, armed and dangerous. The whole attitude of the entire event changed," Carol said.

The SWAT team showed up. Police stormed the apartment.

"When they went in the door they put an entire can of pepper spray in David's face. And he came out swinging with the barbeque fork and his little knife," Carol remembered.

David punched one officer in the eye. Two cops dove for cover, two more opened fire. "They aim to shoot to kill and they do it well," Carol said.

Instead of suing the city, they approached chief Bennie Holder.

He agreed, they said to provide officers a specialized crisis intervention team training to more effectively deal with people suffering mental illness. Tampa sent officers to Memphis to participate in its CIT training program.

"People began to believe that we can make a change here," Stan said.

Tampa man suing city after shot by cops during suicide call

Crisis Intervention Team training is a unique, 40-hour program that trains officers, dispatchers, and even people who work in jails, to recognize and more effectively deal with the mentally ill. It also involves mental health professionals and people suffering from mental illness as well as their families.

The goal is to train enough officers so they can be evenly dispersed among squads and shifts. Dispatchers taking mental health crisis calls locate the CIT certified officers on duty and divert them to the trouble spot. The CIT officer then takes the lead in trying to diffuse or de-escalate the situation.

Holder retired in 2003. New chief Steven Hogue stopped sending officers to CIT training.

"The fact that Steve Hogue dropped the ball so to speak was a big disappointment," Stan said.

Nearly 16 years later, Amanda Turk finds herself asking if Tampa Police officers know how to deal with mentally disturbed people.

In January, she called 911 when her husband Jason told her he was in his car, with a gun, thinking about suicide.

Four minutes after police arrived, a cop, claiming he felt threatened, shot Jason in the face. Jason sent Amanda a text indicating he had been shot, seconds later he was shot again. Jason Turk suffered severe wounds and permanent injury, but he survived.

He was not charged with a crime.

"They treat people as if they're disposable" Amanda Turk said.

Chief Jane Castor insists her officers are well trained in dealing with mentally ill people.

After 8 On Your Side started asking questions about this shooting, the Tampa Police Department started sending officers to the CIT training.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has sent its people to CIT Training for years.

"Sheriff Gee picked this up, understood it, understood its value to the community, to the Hillsborough community and he implemented it fully," Stan Skipper said.

Police shooting leaves family asking about Tampa's training

The Skippers remain active in CIT Training. They worry what might be down the road if TPD's latest commitment goes away again.

"The officers may have greater injuries and mentally ill people will be shot and killed. It will be a tragedy more often than not," Stan Skipper said.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.
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