Man shot by Tampa police officers had history of mental issues, family says

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Frantic moments inside a Tampa Dollar General store come through on a 911 call.

“It’s Dollar General,” the store manager says. “There’s a man with a gun here.”

Employees tried to stop Dominique Mulkey, 26, from stealing food, police say, but he pulled a gun.

“He’s got to be on foot. He was stealing food. Ah, he pulled out a revolver. We caught him trying to steal so we took the merchandise, then he pulled the gun,” the manager said to a 911 operator.

Sadly, the final moments of Mulkey’s life were also frantic. Cops were called because he had that gun as he left the store.

“Tampa police, get on the ground! Tampa police, get on the ground!” an officer is heard screaming on body-worn camera video provided to 8 On Your Side by the Tampa Police Department.

Officers urged Mulkey to drop the gun. Instead, they say he turned toward them, so they opened fire.

“He doesn’t have the wherewithal. He doesn’t have the cognitive thought to say, well okay, I’m gonna run with the gun in my hand. He doesn’t have that,” Mulkey’s stepfather, Robert Smith, told 8 On Your Side.

Smith said he does not think the shooting was justified because he says his stepson had a history of mental health issues.

But, in the heat of the moment, did police know that?

A court records search by 8 On Your Side revealed Mulkey was arrested in the past for stealing from a nearby store.

“The first time this person went into the court system, it should have been well-known that if he did have a mental illness, or a developmental disability, that he should have been getting the services that he needs,” said attorney Matthew Dietz, who specializes in litigation involving those with disabilities.

Given that the police officers probably did not know the suspect had mental issues, Dietz explained it is unlikely the outcome could have been different.

“The issue here with mental status is a huge problem, because many people don’t disclose, because officers have no idea that there’s an issue involved,” he said.

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