by Julianne Hing
Some unsurprising news out of San Francisco shed a little bit of light on a recent spate of fatal officer-involved shootings in the city. Turns out that last June then-San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon canceled a 9-year-old program providing 40 hours of training for city police on how to respond to crisis calls involving people with mental illness. The Bay Citizen reported this week that the program got cut in a department budget squeeze, and while the department has promised to bring some form of it, no date's been given yet.
Since June at least three mentally ill people were shot by the SFPD in separate incidents. Two were fatal. One of those killed was a 46-year-old man named Vinh Bui who was holding a knife, maybe a scalpel, when police burst into his home. They were responding to a call about an attack on a 15-year-old girl in the house. Another was Michael Lee, a 43-year-old man police also said had a history of mental illness. Lee lived in a residential hotel and neighbors complained about the nuisance his loud music was causing that day. Police entered his room, Lee apparently had a weapon on him, there was an altercation, and then they killed him.
The incident that shocked people the most was one that was caught on video last week. San Francisco police shot a man in a wheelchair after he either threw a knife or stabbed an officer in the left shoulder. Police said the man had been slashing tires in the neighborhood.