Authorities in northwestern Indiana are investigating the fatal police shooting of a Black man who was reportedly dealing with mental illness and had been threatening to commit suicide near an elementary school.
A bystander’s video shows 51-year-old Dante Kittrell was partially surrounded by South Bend police vehicles and officers on July 29 when he gestured toward a SWAT team vehicle and was shot, the South Bend Tribune reported.
St. Joseph County police are investigating the shooting and said in a statement that Kittrell threatened to shoot multiple times before he pointed a gun at officers. Officers and negotiators spent nearly 40 minutes trying to deescalate the situation, according to police.
City Councilor Henry Davis Jr. said that he knew Kittrell and that Kittrell had been dealing with mental illness.
“I’m not blaming the officers for what they did. They have a job,” Davis said. “They’re trained to do that job. But since we know there are things that don’t fit in the normal protocol, we have to adjust the way we service this community.”
Mayor James Mueller said there’s a need for enhanced support for residents in need of mental health intervention, especially those from communities of color, adding that firearms need to be prevented from “getting into the wrong hands.”
“Our policy is that lethal force is a last resort,” Mueller said. “We’re going to need all the facts. We’re going to need the investigation to see exactly what transpired and see if there’s anything going forward that we need to adjust.”
St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman said investigators were interviewing witnesses and reviewing video footage. The Mishawaka Police Department is also investigating the shooting.
Some activists also have called for a special prosecutor from outside St. Joseph County to investigate the police response to the incident.
The shooting reportedly was witnessed by the Rev. J.B. Williams, pastor of Abundant Faith Family Ministries, who called it a “military-style operation in response to a mental health crisis,” the newspaper reported.