Troy Hart, a 27-year-old man with a severe mental disability, died Saturday night, the victim of a police shooting in Westland, Michigan. And it all began when his mother called the cops to help bring her son, who was out on the street in his pajamas, back to the house — or to a hospital for psychological help.
Instead, the police ended up shooting Hart, whose genetic condition caused him severe developmental disorders, and left him with the emotional maturity of an 8-year-old.
Police say Troy Hart charged at them with a hunting knife and had been threatening to kill people as he argued with his older brother on a street corner outside the home Hart shared with his mother. But his mother and brother say that though Troy Hart was subject to outbursts of temper, he was not dangerous, and the police could have dealt with him in some other way besides shooting him dead.
“Sometimes he’ll throw a tantrum, like a little kid,” Troy Hart’s brother, Derek, told Detroit’s WXYZ-TV. “The next moment, he’ll just be as normal as anyone.”
“With his impairment, he did not have a filter so he would just blurt things out, inappropriate things,” explained Hart’s mother, Cheryl. “I called 911 and told them that my handicapped son was out in his PJ’s, could you bring him home or take him to a psychiatric ward to get an evaluation?”
A witness to the police shooting, Anthony Like, described a scene that had police advancing on Hart, rather than the other way around.
“When they saw the knife, they told him to put it down,” Like told Detroit’s Fox 2 News. “But they continued to move forward even though they saw the knife. That’s what led to them shooting him, when he put it up.”
After the police shot Troy Hart, the mentally disabled man was rushed to nearby Oakwood hospital. It was there that he died from his wounds.
The Westland Police Department told WXYZ that it extended “condolences” to the Troy Hart’s family, and promised to include the family’s input at “every step” of the investigation into the shooting.
The police shooting of Troy Hart comes less that two weeks after a remarkably similar incident in the tiny town of Gretna, Florida, when the mother of 24-year-old Kaldrick Donald called police for help with her son, who suffered from a severe mental illness. But when a police officer arrived, some sort of still-unclear altercation ensued, which concluded when the police officer took Donald into a bathroom, and ended up shooting him dead.
Family members of Troy Hart say they are retaining an attorney, and that they want to see police learn to handle people with mental impairments without shooting them.