Man Killed by Police Had History of Mental Illness — (Treatment Advocacy Centre)

SSRI Ed note: "Likeable" man forced to take psych meds goes to school carrying BB gun, is shot and killed by police. Father blames lack of treatment.

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Treatment Advocacy Centre

Jan. 11, 2016

The father of a 38-year-old mentally ill man killed in a police-involved shooting in Zion, Illinois said his son’s death resulted from poor “judgment calls” by his son and police, both of which he wishes had gone differently (“Man killed by Zion cops was ‘likable guy,’ had history of mental illness, his dad says,” Lake County News-Sun, Jan. 7).

Charles “Charlie” Hollstein, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was carrying a BB gun and wearing a homemade tactical-style vest while taking photos of an elementary school last Wednesday morning before he was fatally shot by Zion police after a foot chase that ended in a struggle, according to Lake County authorities.

“I’m blaming both of them a little bit,” Hollstein’s father, Carl, said of his son and police. “But then again, it’s a judgment call for the police. They’ve only got a split second to make a decision. They probably rushed to judgment. Charlie probably rushed to judgment.”

“After the foot pursuit, a struggle with the offender and officers ensued, which resulted in the offender being shot,” a statement from the Lake County Major Crime Task Force read.

Hollstein died of three gunshot wounds to his upper left back, according to the Lake County coroner.

His father didn’t know why his son was at the school or carrying the BB gun, but said Hollstein liked taking photos with his cell phone camera and enjoyed crafting his own clothes. He added that his son was a “likable guy” who struck people as very polite, but struggled with mental illness and could be violent.

In 2005, Hollstein was committed to an inpatient facility after failing to comply with outpatient treatment [read: medication – Ed]. He was released in 2007 and went to live at a local nursing home for several years before moving out in 2013 to live independently.

“It probably would have been better if he’d been living at a nursing home, but who thinks something like this will happen?” his father said.

Unfortunately, tragedies like this are far too common. We have dismantled the mental illness treatment system and turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter. This is patently unfair, illogical and is proving harmful both to the individual in desperate need of care and the officer who is forced to respond.

A 2015 Treatment Advocacy Center report found “the risk of being killed during a police incident is 16 times greater for individuals with untreated mental illness than for other civilians approached or stopped by officers.” The report urges lawmakers to reduce loss of life and the many social costs associated with police shootings by enacting public policies that will:

  • Restore the mental health system so that individuals with severe mental illness are not left to deteriorate until their actions provoke a police response;
  • Fund reliable federal tracking and reporting of all incidents involving the use of deadly force by law enforcement, whether lethal or not; and
  • Assure that the role of mental illness in fatal police shootings is identified and reported in government data collection.

Read our report, “Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters,” to learn more.