Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill Suspects

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James Boyd, a homeless man camping in the Sandia Foothills here, could hear the commands of the police officers who were trying to move him out.

The problem was that Mr. Boyd, 38, had a history of mental illness, and so was living in a different reality, one in which he was a federal agent and not someone to be bossed around.

“Don’t attempt to give me, the Department of Defense, another directive,” he told the officers. A short while later, the police shot and killed him, saying he had pulled out two knives and threatened their lives.

The March 16 shooting, captured in a video taken with an officer’s helmet camera and released by the Albuquerque Police Department, has stirred protests and some violence in Albuquerque and prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin an inquiry into the death. But it has also focused attention on the growing number of people with severe mental disorders who, in the absence of adequate mental health services, are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, sometimes with deadly consequences.

by Fernanda Santos and Erica Goode, The New York Times

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