The fatal police shooting of James Glidden in Plymouth, Ma., at first appeared to be a straightforward response to an attack by a dangerous fugitive. Only later did it begin to look different, the Boston Globe reports.
Plymouth Officer Paul Boyle killed a 35-year-old mechanic with a disabling mental illness. But items found in his Jeep, including a note of apology and rope fashioned into a noose, suggest that his death over Labor Day weekend was the last in a career of standoffs between a suicidal man and law enforcement.
Police say “suicide by cop” is an event far more common than the public knows. Because the mentally ill are released to independent lives in the community as soon as they are stabilized on medication, police have become caregivers of first resort in a variety of psychiatric emergencies.
In the only systematic review of suicide-by-cop incidents in this country, a Harvard researcher found that 11 percent of police shootings by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department appeared to be suicides by people who set out to be shot. Police say that officers find themselves trapped in a fast-moving drama written by someone else. “They lure you in,” said Sergeant Christopher D. Delmonte of the Bridgewater Police Department, whose Special Response Team prevented an attempted suicide in mid-September. To attract police attention, a man had wandered onto a stranger’s lawn, waving a gun. “It’s almost like an invitation,” Delmonte said. “If you stand back and look at it, they’re throwing the gauntlet down.”