Family sues after police kill ‘suicidal’ man

Richard Munroe was shot and killed by APD officers on Golden Quail Drive.
Richard Munroe was shot and killed by APD officers on Golden Quail Drive.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit after police shot and killed Richard Munroe on July, 5 2015. 

A Travis County grand jury decided not to charge three Austin police officers who killed Munroe. Officers John Nelson, Stephen Johnson and Matt Murphy were called to a home in north Austin after a 911 call described Munroe, 25, as “distraught,” crying and “suicidal.” The lawsuit states Munroe told the dispatcher that the “only thing he needed was someone to talk to.”

Discussing life and work, Munroe thanked the dispatcher 11 times for staying on the phone with him. The operator says he never threatened to hurt himself or anyone else. According to the lawsuit, Munroe made it clear he did not want police to be sent to his house. The dispatcher told him several times police were unable to find his location, but offered to send a Mental Health Officer to “sit and chat.”

He told the dispatcher that the “only thing he needed was someone to talk to.”

After years in and out of mental health facilities Munroe said he tried to get help in the past. It was then Munroe heard sirens in the distance. Officers arrived at his house 23 minutes into the 911 call. The dispatcher said she didn’t know officers were sent to his home and immediately told police to “slow it down.”

As the officers approached the home, Munroe came outside holding what police thought was a gun. Yelling could be heard in the background of the call as officers shouted at Munroe to “show [his] hands.” He was ordered to drop the gun, but Munroe refused, according to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Police noticed self-inflicted wounds on the man’s arms.

Listen to the 911 call here:

According to police, Munroe pointed the gun at his head before Officer Murphy attempted to use a Taser on him. The officers claim he sat down on the front porch and pointed the BB gun at police. All three officers opened fired on Munroe killing him at the scene. The officers claim they did not know it was a BB gun until after they shot him six times.

The final moments of Munroe’s life differ in the lawsuit than what police reported. The lawsuit says Munroe sat down on the porch with the gun in his lap while he talked with the dispatcher. Officer Murphy continued to yell and “rushed” Munroe attempting to tase him. According to the lawsuit, as soon as the taser was used Officers Johnson and Nelson shot him several times. Munroe died four minutes after officers arrived at his house.

The 911 dispatcher was on the phone for the entire incident recording Munroe’s final breaths before he died outside of his home. His family says Munroe suffered from Schizoid Personality Disorder, and was described as a “gentle soul, and a loving son, brother, uncle and friend.”

The lawsuit is filed against the city of Austin, Police Chief Art Acevedo, Officer Nelson, Officer Johnson, and Officer Murphy.

24 Hour Crisis Hotline

The team at Austin Travis County Integral Care provides some of the crisis intervention training to Austin police. The mental health professionals there say while it’s important to call 911 if there’s an imminent risk of harm to the person or others, people in crisis can also benefit from their 24 hour crisis hotline.

Laura Wilson-Slocum is a Practice Manager at ATCIC. “What a person can expect when they call that hotline, is to speak to a qualified mental health professional that can talk to the person about what’s going on with either him or herself or with their loved one, and provide clinical guidance on what the next best step should be.”

She says the mental health professional could refer them to a walk-in urgent care for people experiencing mental health crisis, or they could dispatch a mobile crisis outreach team.

“The crisis hotline can dispatch a mobile outreach team to go see the person, assess the person, in the community where the crisis is actually happening, so the person doesn’t have to go to a clinic and figure out directions or get in a car and drive,” said Wilson-Slocum. “The crisis specialist comes out to them, to see them during the crisis.”

The Austin Police Department has seven officers and one sergeant in their Crisis Intervention Team, or the CIT Unit. There are 199 mental health officers on patrol.

According to APD Policy, if an incident is non-emergency in nature, a CIT officer should respond as the primary officer. However if the incident is an emergency, any patrol officer may be dispatched immediately and a CIT officer will be dispatched as soon as possible.

If you are having a psychiatric crisis you can call the 24 hour crisis hotline at 512-472-4357.

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