After a 23-year-old was killed Sunday by a police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts, family members and activists are demanding better training for how officers deal with people with mental health crises.
Earlene Victoria Taylor said her grandson, Orlando Taylor, had been struggling with paranoia and other mental health problems for years. She said he’d been a good student while he was living with her, but later, as a teenager, his behavior became volatile and his family repeatedly tried to get him mental health treatment.
Just recently, she said Orlando had agreed to seek help on his own.
“He made a promise he was going to go that next day, which would have been Monday,” she said. “We see that didn’t happen.”
It’s not clear exactly what precipitated the final crisis. The police said Orlando Taylor stabbed a police officer in the face and neck shortly before the shooting, which took place around 8:30 Sunday morning.
Earlene Taylor said she remembers running out of her house, in the city’s Liberty Heights neighborhood, to see her grandson running down the street
“By that time, he’s all the way past my driveway and the cops were in pursuit of him in the street,” Taylor said. “And they had their guns drawn and I started screaming, and I’m like, ‘Don’t shoot. He’s got mental health issues.’ I was yelling. I mean, you see somebody running behind your grandchild, got a gun pulled out. I’m pleading for his life.”
According to the police, Orlando Taylor again lunged at officers with a knife in hand, when the injured officer fired twice.
Earlene Taylor said after Orlando fell, police handcuffed him, and then attempted CPR.
The police said this is the first fatal shooting by a Springfield officer since 2014.
At a press conference later that day, Mayor Domenic Sarno said the responding officers showed “a tremendous amount of restraint.” He said he believed the shooting to be justified.
Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood offered sympathy for Taylor’s family, as well as the wounded officer, who she said suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.
The department said Wednesday the officer, whose name has not been released, will undergo “surgery with a facial and nerve specialist in Boston due to what is most likely permanent nerve damage in his face.”
The officer and his partner have have been placed on paid administrative leave.