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A bad day in Mt. Pleasant left Jean E. Louis dead. Louis was fatally shot Tuesday after a Metropolitan Police Department “Emergency Response Team” broke an hours-long standoff, and Louis lunged at an officer with a sharpened object, according to reports.

The episode raises, not for the first time, some questions about whether MPD is properly prepared to deal with the mentally ill when or if they become violent. In this particular instance, according to the department, they were—a cop on the scene was part of a special team trained to deal with such deadly situations.

In two separate altercations in 2009, police fatally shot and killedmentally ill District residents. David Kerstetter and Osman Abdullahi were both shot dead after each man allegedly rushed at officers with weapons. The tragedies prompted the department to succumb to a suggestion the Office of Police Complaints had been making since 2006: MPD needed a Crisis Intervention Team like the one in Memphis, Tenn.

CIT units are trained to bring a “humane and calm approach” to a crisis involving a mentally ill suspect. That’s important, as confrontations between police officers and someone who’s had a psychological break can easily turn bloody.

MPD says it’s not releasing details about this week’s shooting due to an ongoing investigation, so we don’t know what methods the CIT member might have employed to try to subdue and save Louis. In a statement, MPD does say “responders” attempted to negotiate with Louis.

Though cops are justified in using lethal force when their lives are in danger, the mission of the CIT would seem to be to prevent that kind of life-or-death scenario from emerging. One question left unanswered for now: How much influence did the CIT member have over the developing crisis? And a second: Why did a distressed man with a screwdriver require a SWAT team to lock down Mt. Pleasant?

Photo by Stefanie Gans