A mentally disturbed man was shot to death by a police marksman only after he pointed his gun directly at the officer, says the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Star says that several officials broke a five-day silence and described the events s leading to James Gordon’s death last Thursday after his family asked police to help get him to a hospital. Relatives believe that Gordon, 21, was shot while he was trying to place the gun down on the balcony ledge of his apartment.
Gordon’s family called 911 after he seemed delusional, saying he was depressed over losing a job and said people were “after him.” They said he was suicidal.
Col. Kerry Forestal of the sheriff’s department said Gordon was the first person in at least 10 years killed during a SWAT team stand-off; the team handles 12 to 24 such incidents each year. Maj. John T. Jones said Gordon was shot shortly after he came to the balcony door of his apartment holding a pistol and began to sweep the courtyard with his gun, as if looking for a target. Forestal said marksmen are taught to fire under those circumstances; the SWAT commander does not order or grant permission to fire.
In recent years, several police agencies have tried new procedures in responding to calls involving mentally ill people. Usually these changes have followed police-action shootings. Some experts say an aggressive response to mentally ill people is more likely to escalate to violence. Forestal said the department had to respond as it did to protect others, including officers.