Dontre Hamilton was a Schizophrenic black man. A Starbucks employee contacted police, presumably for his aberrant – a.k.a. ‘mentally ill’ – behavior when he was trying to take a nap in the park. The first pair of cops to arrive on the scene thought he was not a threat and just wanted a nap. When officer Manney arrived to the scene – a situation which he apparently didn’t know had already been covered by different officers earlier – he antagonized Mr. Hamilton. Officer Manney eventually caused a situation by striking Mr. Hamilton and entering close quarters combat – only to lose and subsequently pull his trump card, the gun… shooting Mr. Hamilton an unbelievable fourteen times.
This is not a matter for party politics. Democrats – much less Socialists, much less Communists – do not own the high ground on this matter and neither does the Right. This is matter of basic decency and understanding of the existence and legitimacy of people not like ourselves. However, I did attend and spoke up at a forum on gun control, where Hilary Clinton was the lead figure. I reminded the crowd that Mr. Hamilton was Schizophrenic in addition to being a black man. It is fair so say that Mr. Hamilton’s being black and his being Schizophrenic, may have both contributed to the bias which officer Manney brought to the situation and led to the escalation which could have so easily been avoided. But it should not be lost among the wave of ‘Black Lives Matter’ that Mr. Hamilton was Schizophrenic, and the Starbucks employee was likely not a racist. Among all the torrential political spin, it must be said that Mr. Hamilton’s Schizophrenia was part – even the most prominent part – of what led to the injustice of his being shot. 14 times.
I suffer from mental illness and though with age and understanding it has become easier to deal with, it is quite clear from my own experience that the mentally ill are and will remain under greater scrutiny by law enforcement and homeland security. At the forum I said that what the mentally ill need most is hope and opportunity in the face of what can feel like persecution. In exchange for this scrutiny and infringement of liberties – and subsequent undue social resistance among the general public – they deserve the chance, with time, healing, and understanding, to be heard. In addition to efforts to stop mental illness altogether, this is the least we can do for those who have suffered and endured without causing social harm themselves.
At the forum I also insisted that the mentally ill should not own guns, as it only puts the mentally ill in a more difficult situation should there ever be an incident. But the case of Dontre Hamilton shows that officers of the law too must do their part to make it clear that the mentally ill do not need them.