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Mother tried to request mental health assistance before son was shot by neighbor in Gainesville

Her son was suffering from a mental health crisis and threatening people in a Gainesville neighborhood with knives

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A mother who called 911, hoping to get her son help, said he was suffering a mental health crisis and threatened people in a Gainesville neighborhood with knives. She wanted someone to respond and transport him to a facility for help. However, the 911 dispatcher told her they couldn't do that. 

Her son ended up being shot by a neighbor. The shooting shook the neighborhood on Shades Valley Lane, but moments before, 911 calls reveal the mother tried to get mental health resources to the scene to help her son.

"My son, he's paranoid schizophrenic, and he's walking around in the parking lot with two knives and stuff and talking about killing people," she said. 

Neighbors reported the suspect was wielding knives, walking around with his eight-year-old son, damaging cars and property, and asking people to kill him. Police said one resident shot the man after he chased to medics. The suspect survived and went to the hospital, where he was last in stable condition. 

RELATED: Neighbors recall moments knife-wielding man ran through neighborhood before he was shot by resident

The 1013 form the mother requested is a legal document that signs off on transportation to an emergency receiving facility so someone experiencing a mental health episode can get help. Anyone who poses an imminent danger to themselves or others is eligible, but 1013 forms must be completed by authorized licensed clinicians.  

Licensed professional counselor Tami Brown has over 20 years of clinician, advocate and lived experience of helping with behavioral health situations. She said a quarter of Americans have behavioral health diagnoses, which she said can be just as common as physical health issues. 

"We want to make sure folks are receiving appropriate treatment in the least restrictive possible way," Brown said. “In a perfect world, we would want our licensed clinicians to always be on site, anyone to help de-escalate a situation. What we don’t want is a whole bunch of 1013s being signed because folks don’t understand people from other cultures, because that can get a little bit ugly.”

RELATED: How Georgia is seeing successful results through new 988 mental health hotline

Brown said there also aren't enough psychiatric hospitals or crisis stabilization units to send 1013 patients, so sometimes, patients may be sent to hospital emergency departments.

Hall County 911 said it was not authorized to issue a 1013. Gainesville Police said in this specific case Monday, there wasn't time before the shooting to make sure the scene was safe and to send a licensed clinician. 

"I think it varies per situation, per agency and per policy," a spokesperson for Hall County 911 said. "We have officers advise us they are going to serve 1013 papers. We have facilities that call in that advise they have signed 1013 papers in hand and in other situations responders have transported individuals to a medical facility for a 1013 evaluation based on what is occurring or has occurred on scene. We simply respond units to assess the situation and handle it per their policy/procedure."

"Typically, 1013s have to be done after a medical examination by a licensed professional," a spokesperson for Gainesville Police said. "We are one of the few agencies that have a co-responder program with licensed clinicians on the frontlines that can have them committed on a 1013. In this case, there was never time prior to the shooting incident. Sadly, that is part of the program to ensure the scene is safe prior to the arrival of the clinicians." 

Brown said people can call 988 for behavioral health emergencies, while 911 should be called for more criminal scenarios. 

"Every time there’s a behavioral health situation, that does not mean there is a crisis," Brown said. "We don’t know about behavioral health if we’re scared to talk about it, and again the conversation around mental health is still taboo. It's getting better, but it's still taboo." 

Brown credits 1013 forms and co-responder programs, where police go out on calls with licensed professionals, for de-escalating tense situations. She said research, education, training and talking more about behavioral health can result in fewer violent outcomes in the long run when responding to mental health episodes. 

“We can’t keep calling the police every time we see someone that may not look like us or may look a little more agitated than beyond our comfort zone, right? We have to get educated," Brown said. 

Gainesville Police said a clinician did respond to the hospital to help the suspect. Investigators said once released, the suspect will be charged with criminal attempt to commit murder, two counts of obstruction of an EMT, aggravated assault and weapons charges. Police said for now, the man wielding the knives was the only one who would be charged in this case as the investigation continues.

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