Family of man killed by Houston cop say he was in mental health crisis, the system let him down

Family of man killed by Houston cop say he was in mental health crisis, the system let him down

Family members of a man killed by Houston police last month say the 26-year-old was suffering from a mental health crisis and relatives were actively looking for him when an officer killed him shot in the Spring Branch area.

Speaking at the headquarters of FIEL, an immigration advocacy group in southwest Houston, Alfredo Gonzalez Garza’s mother said her son had been in and out of mental institutions for years and the access to better mental health care could have prevented his death.

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“I sought help for him but the system let me down. They told me the only way to keep him in charge would be for him to commit a crime so the police would have to deal with him. placed in a mental health center for an indefinite period,” said Minerva Garza, Garza’s mother, in Spanish.

“I looked around and talked but no one helped me. I heard the county has put a lot of money into mental health resources but what do they do with that money ‘Cause honestly, they’re not helping us,” Minerva Garza said, fighting back tears.

Minerva Garza, mother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says she is not satisfied with information and video footage provided by the Houston Police Department during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 in Houston. The Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis. The family is seeking answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health and prevention services.Yi-Chin Lee/staff photographer

Harris Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Houston police said officers were called around 7:45 a.m. to the Long Point Road and Jacquelyn Drive area after a woman reported a man hit her windshield with a flagpole, and another man said he saw a person with a flagpole disrupting traffic. .

Surveillance footage of the shooting released Monday shows Garza, who is waving a large American flag tied to a flag pole, approaches the responding officer before turning around and walking down Long Point. The officer can be seen following Garza down the street; he then opens fire after Garza turns towards him and begins to approach him with the flag.

Police say Garza was also carrying a knife, but the video is shot from too far away to see any objects other than the flag. The officer, identified as I. Garcia, did not turn on his camera until after the shooting, when Garza was already mortally wounded and Garcia was already providing assistance.

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For Garza’s family, the lack of body-worn camera footage has only added to the list of questions they want answered. Why couldn’t the agent use a Taser or wait a minute for the backup? Why, after so many cries for help, couldn’t Garza have avoided this moment and gotten the care he so clearly needed?

“There is not a single video that justifies or proves to me why this officer should have shot him. He had other options and he did not use them,” Minerva Garza said.

Garza is at least the 12th person to be killed by Houston police officers so far this year, according to police data. The department instituted a mental health unit in 2013 to respond to people in mental health crisis, but excerpts from dispatches released by the police department do not show the unit was called. Houston police declined to comment further on the incident, citing an internal investigation, but officials said Wednesday that Garcia remained on staff and was placed on clerical duty.

Minerva Garza said her son worked odd jobs and occasionally stayed with an aunt in Spring Branch. The day before he died, he was in an apartment with two of his friends, she said, and the next morning another aunt noticed something was wrong with him, so his mother came out to his research.

Garza had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he began to suffer from mental health issues about three years ago. He was later diagnosed with psychosis, according to his mother. When he was last institutionalized in September, he was told his son was beginning to show symptoms of schizophrenia.

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Garza’s family described him as a kind and loving young man who was never known to show aggression towards anyone, even though he had been physically and emotionally abused by people who took advantage of his condition.

“Alfredo has been with me all my life and unfortunately he suffered from mental illness, and because of that he could act strange at times but never aggressive. I never felt threatened around him,” said his younger brother, Aldo Gonzalez, 20 years old. Garza.

Aldo Gonzalez, brother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says it was unfair to Alfredo that a Houston police officer shot and killed him while he was going through a mental health crisis but not aggressive on Wednesday November 23, 2022 in Houston.  The Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis.  The family is seeking answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health and prevention services.
Aldo Gonzalez, brother of Alfredo Gonzalez Garza, says it was unfair to Alfredo that a Houston police officer shot and killed him while he was going through a mental health crisis but not aggressive on Wednesday November 23, 2022 in Houston. The Houston Police Department released video footage of Alredo being shot and killed by an officer during a mental health crisis. The family is seeking answers to their questions and pushing for better mental health and prevention services.Yi-Chin Lee/staff photographer

“Actually, he was always the victim, but no matter what they did to him, he was fine and you were still his friend,” he said. “It’s something I’m not prepared for, but I have to deal with it now, because the officer who tried to handle the situation obviously didn’t know how to do his job properly.”

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