Dallas Police's Final, Fatal Encounter with a Schizophrenic

UPDATED OCTOBER 6, 2014: Jason Harrison's Father Sues Dallas and the Police Officers Who Killed His Son

ORIGINAL POST: To neighbors and family, it was obvious that Jason Harrison was mentally ill, even if the legal system kept treating him like someone who wasn't. The last time his mother called for the cops to come to their home in Oak Cliff was this past Saturday afternoon. He seemed agitated, standing in the street, according to a neighbor, and something that looked like it might be a weapon was in his pocket. "We could see the handle of it sticking out," the neighbor told Unfair Park. It was a screwdriver. Harrison's mother called 911 and asked for a speciality team to come and take her son to Parkland hospital.

Instead, at some point after the cops arrived, neighbors say, they heard three gunshots. The Dallas Police Department blog published a post on Saturday saying that Harrison "made an aggressive act towards one of the officers with the screwdriver," and so both officers fired, killing him. He was 38.

Harrison's mother hasn't yet responded to an interview request, but family members told WFAA that he was unable to obtain long-term mental health treatment anywhere "because he showed no signs of hurting himself or anybody else."

Yet his mother often had to call cops to her home, neighbors say. "This time I feel like they got tired of coming out here, so they finally killed him," says the one who saw the screwdriver in Harrison's pocket, though the neighbor never felt personally threatened by Harrison and believes cops shouldn't have shot him.

Before Saturday, Harrison's last major confrontation with Dallas police was on September 11. Harrison's mother told officers that Harrison hadn't slept or taken his medication in two days. When police arrived, they saw him pacing and yelling in the kitchen.

Harrison "began to make derogatory remarks towards officers as he noticed officers watching him," something the officers apparently took seriously enough to note in their report. As they watched him, he then spit in the face of Officer Tawanna Williams, "making contact with the comp skin," goes the police narrative. That was what made the officers decide to place him in cuffs and bring him to jail. On the way out, he spit in the other officer's face, too.

Harrison was charged with harassment of a public servant, a felony. The court determined that Harrison was incompetent to stand trial and instead sentenced him to a maximum of 120 days at the Rio Grande State Center, a mental health facility.

In February, the head of the facility told the judge that Harrison had become competent to stand trial, something that's common once offenders are medicated. Under a plea bargain, Harrison pleaded guilty to attempted assault of a public servant and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

"I did unlawfully, then and there with the attempt to assault, harass or alarm T. WILLIAMS...cause the said complainant to contact the SALIVA of the defendant," reads his judicial confession. It does not mention the schizophrenia that his family and friends say afflicted him.

Patricia Ramirez, a friend of the mother, liked Harrison, remembering him as someone who often wandered the neighborhood, walking to the store and talking to himself.

Ramirez ran toward the house after she heard the three gunshots on Saturday. Officers were guarding the scene, she says, and she didn't know what had happened.

After police brought Harrison's mother in for questioning, Ramirez cleaned the blood left behind in the street with peroxide and bleach so the reminder of his death would be gone before his mother returned home. "She loved him," she says.

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn