The police killing of 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard last Thursday took an even more heartbreaking turn, when the young girl’s aunt spoke out, revealing details of Kristiana’s fragile mental condition — a struggle with mental illness that had plagued the girl since the age of 4. This may have contributed to the behavior that led police in Longview, Texas, to shoot her dead in the lobby of their own police station.
As reported Sunday by the Inquisitr, the 17-year-old allegedly “came at” approximately three police officers with an unspecified weapon — the city’s mayor said the weapon was a knife, though police offered no confirmation of that characterization — and was shot multiple times. She died at a nearby hospital.
The shooting occurred after the teen walked into the police station lobby at about 6:30 p.m. and, using a lobby courtesy phone, requested to speak to an officer.
“I think it was a cry for help. I think they could have done something,” Heather Robertson, Coignard’s aunt, told the news site Think Progress in an interview Monday. “They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”
Roberston said that she, along with Coingard’s grandmother, Holly McGuire, had a 30-minute conversation with police after the killing of Kristiana. They told Think Progress that the Longview police provided them with few details of what happened, and declined to show them the surveillance video taken by cameras in the police station lobby — though they acknowledged that the video, as well as audio, did exist.
But perhaps most tragic, according Robertson’s interview with Think Progress reporter Judd Legum, Kristiana Coingard had been battling severe mental illness since her mother passed away when Kristiana was only 4-years-old.
Coingard’s diagnosed illnesses, according to her aunt, included clinical depression and bi-polar disorder. Her conditions had resulted in two previous suicide attempts, both of which led to hospitalizations.
One occasion, Kristiana attempted suicide by hanging. On another, she drank cleaning fluid, intended for scrubbing toilet bowls.
She survived both attempts and had recently been placed on medication, and regularly saw a psychotherapist. Her aunt said that Kristiana, despite her mental illness, had no criminal record and no history of violence directed at anyone other than herself.
The new details add to the questions already raised about why three police officers inside a police station felt unable to handle a 17-year-old girl in any way other than killing her.
The new questions concern the level of training the officers might have received in dealing with mentally ill suspects. If they are like most police officers, that training was likely minimal.
One recent study found that mentally ill subjects account for about 10 percent of all calls to police, but many states require no training at all for officers in how to deal with people suffering from mental disorders.
Though statistics on police killings are not officially kept, a 2013 report by the National Sheriffs Association concluded that “at least half” of all persons shot and killed by police are suffering from mental illness.
The Texas Rangers are now in charge of the investigation into the police killing of Kristiana Coingard.
[Images: In Loving Memory of Kristiana Coignard Facebook]