The SWAT team came to save him from himself

Someone got scared and they were scared

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Keaton wanted to be an elementary school math teacher his family said. He loved reading and played multiple instruments and he worked two jobs in the Twin Cities area where he lived one at Fleet Farm a retail store and one at McDonald’s because two jobs is what a person needs to survive now. People tell me a lot online that a job at McDonald’s isn’t supposed to provide a full time living for people because it’s for teenagers and that it wouldn’t be fair to McDonald’s to have to pay so much to people for flipping burgers the one thing people at McDonald’s do.

Keaton who also loved Pokemon was having a hard time I guess and he was thinking about hurting himself so someone called the police because they were scared and when the police arrived Keaton went outside then the police got scared themselves because that is the one thing police do at work all day they get scared. They tried to talk to him and then tasered him and when that didn’t work Keaton was all of a sudden dead after an officer-involved shooting which is the euphemism for when a gun goes off on its own and kills a person through the magic of the passive voice. Keaton was twenty two and now he’ll always be twenty two when his family thinks about him forever.

A couple weeks before that a woman in Cobb County Georgia had the police called on her after she reportedly was threatening suicide. Talathia Brooks came to the door when the police arrived and they got on their bullhorns and were asking her to come out and things like that and then they say she came back to the door with a gun. “She did make a very distinctive, overt action toward them with that weapon,” Dana Pierce a police sergeant said, “and that’s why they felt as though they were at risk of serious body injury or death” and then she was dead.

I know we’re not supposed to like Louis. C.K. anymore and I don’t don’t worry I am very comfortable no longer enjoying his work but sometimes at night when I can’t sleep I have to watch shows like Parks and Recreation over and over again even though it’s a psyop to make libertarian epic bacon guys and centrist politicians likable. One bit I remember whenever I read a cop quote is from when he was a cop on the show and he was talking about how he liked Leslie and he was like Ms. Knope was attractive to me. As man I was attracted to her in her demeanor. I was attracted to her in a sexual manor that was appropriate because it’s funny to talk like a cop when it doesn’t involve cop things. It’s weird to me how that cop voice is such a passive one but everything they do is reactionary and filled with escalating action.

They tried to save Talathia Brooks after they shot her which is what the police often do and that seems so fucking weird to me firing bullets at someone then trying to bring them back to life. Sometimes they don’t try to save the people they shoot though and that is even worse.

A couple years before that a man in Roy, Utah named Jose Calzada called a suicide hotline saying he wanted to kill himself and then whatever happens after that call is made happened and the SWAT team was at his house and a standoff ensued. A few hours later they stormed the house and found him in his garage with a gun pointed into his mouth and they ordered him to drop the gun he had pointed at himself and when he moved they shot him to death twenty two times. The shooting was found to be justified by the police investigation naturally but his family is suing saying he had fallen asleep and was woken up when the SWAT team came to save him from himself.

There are a lot of these stories how many more do you want to read because I kind of don’t want to write about too many more. I just remembered a note I took the other night when I was wasted sometimes I get ideas for things to write here when I’m drinking but I can’t write when I’m drinking. The note I wrote down says “snap neck like pregnant lady light over microwave just never fixed” and I don’t really remember what the premise of the pregnant lady thing was exactly but I think it was about being compelled to experience weird sorts of pain like how there’s always that joke in sitcoms or whatever about how pregnant women want to eat pickles and ice cream and shit like that. I spend a lot of time on my back porch and I think about whether or not my neck would snap if I fell off of it it’s just the second floor or if I would just sort of fuck up my shoulder pretty bad and never be able to play tennis again. I don’t play tennis but you know what I mean. A year or two ago I used to imagine the entire porch collapsing and falling through it and that would fucking suck but sometimes I wished it would happen. Anyway I’m not going to do that don’t call the cops on me.

The other thing is about this pulldown light string that dangles over our fridge and microwave corner in our kitchen and if you pull on it and hold it down the light will come on but the second you let it go it snaps back up and the light goes off and it’s been that way for at least five years I don’t know why we haven’t fixed that yet or if it’s a metaphor for anything but it could be if you wanted it to anything can be there are no rules.

In 2018 police shot and killed at least 64 people with mental health disabilities according to the ACLU. “This January, Alejandro Valdez was suicidal and threatening to kill himself. The police shot and killed him. In February, Orbel Nazarians was suicidal and threatening himself with a knife. The police shot and killed him. In March, Jihad Merrick was suicidal and pointing a gun at his head. The police shot and killed him. In April, Benjamin Evans was making suicidal comments. Police shot and killed him.”

Here’s another one from this year about a man in Minneapolis whose friend called a hotline saying she was worried about him. “He calls me all the time saying he wants to die, and I don’t know how to deal with it,” the friend said. Travis Jordan who was thirty six and now will always be thirty six came outside and he had a gun the police say. He was from Honolulu and was a sommelier and liked surfing and worked as a mixologist.

“The 311 caller said Jordan had been taking alcohol to deal with depression and anxiety,” the Southwest Journal reported. “On Nov. 9, Jordan sent the caller a music video about suicide and cried on the phone, saying he didn’t want to live and didn’t want to think about his future anymore. He’d shown interest in obtaining a gun in the past, the caller said.”

His friend was trying to help obviously all these peoples’ friends were trying to help and maybe even the police thought they were trying to help. It’s hard to tell how often this specific scenario plays out — the data on police shootings has always been woefully inadequate although that is changing as newspapers and other organizations have begun to dig deeper in the post-Ferguson period where we collectively woke up a little bit. Of the four hundred fatal police shootings in 2015 one quarter of them involved victims that had been dealing with mental health issues the Washington Post found.

“About half the shootings occurred after family members, neighbors or strangers sought help from police because someone was suicidal, behaving erratically or threatening violence,” they reported.

In 2014 The Treatment Advocacy Center analyzed public shooting data spanning nearly forty years and found that “at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”

The Portland Press Herald found that almost half of the people shot in Maine in 2000 and 2001 suffered from a mental illness. In 2014 San Francisco public radio station KQED found that nearly 60% of the people killed by police between 2005 and 2013 in their city had an illness that “was a contributing factor in the incident.”

“There are common elements in many of these instances when a fragile situation turns life-threatening for a person in crisis,” they wrote. “That person often has a weapon, police issue commands, the person becomes more agitated, police respond with force.”

I don’t really know what the answer for this is besides abolishing the police which doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon but a good place to start might be divorcing from the assumed job responsibilities of the armed crime stoppers the added role of serving as mental health crisis prevention experts? Or barring that because obviously there’s no money for that we need to refund it to the people who own the McDonald’s we all work at at our second job we could send the firefighters or an EMT. Maybe the people whose first instinct is to intimidate and take command of a potentially deadly encounter shouldn’t be sent to save us from ourselves by shooting us when we’re fucked up. Just spitballing crazy stuff here man don’t listen to me.

One cool thing I just read is that Eugene, Oregon has a program called CAHOOTS specifically to prevent putting people in distress like homeless people or people going through a mental health crisis into deadly situations with police. They employ teams of counselors and EMTs and that is good but the even better part is that they are not armed and not allowed to detain people against their will.

"There's a growing awareness that alternatives to law enforcement are needed, that alternatives to emergency medical services are needed,” Brenton Gicker who works for CAHOOTS told KVAL in Eugene a couple year ago. “There's a lot of people having problems related to psychiatric problems and addiction based problems and poverty problems, that end up getting addressed by the police but may be appropriately addressed by another resource.”

I kind of got sidetracked there the whole reason I started writing about this in the first place is because as an added Hell World bonus we now have the option of pressing a button on social media and having the police deliver bullets to the home of someone we are concerned about. As a New York Times piece from the other day outlined Facebook has been trying to improve upon the way they handle posts that may be interpreted as coming from people in danger of harming themselves.

Self harm is a category that Facebook has emphasized of late Mark Zuckerberg who cares about us wrote in explaining their efforts.

“After someone tragically live-streamed their suicide, we trained our systems to flag content that suggested a risk -- in this case so we could get the person help. We built a team of thousands of people around the world so we could respond to these flags usually within minutes. In the last year, we've helped first responders quickly reach around 3,500 people globally who needed help,” Mark Zuckerberg who cares about us wrote. Remember when he seemed like he was teasing a run for the presidency lol. Now that I think of it caring about us doesn’t seem to be a requirement for the job I guess.

Naturally Facebook doesn’t have enough employees to monitor everyone’s posts where would they get the money to hire more people so they have tried to improve upon their machines’ ability to predict your suicide before it happens.

That’s easier said than done they explained in another post.

“One of the biggest challenges the team faced was that so many phrases that might indicate suicidal intent — ‘kill,’ ‘die,’ ‘goodbye’ — are commonly used in other contexts. A human being might recognize that ‘I have so much homework I want to kill myself’ is not a genuine cry of distress, but how do you teach a computer that kind of contextual understanding?”

Bla bla bla computer talk nerd stuff turns out that Facebook not only has all the data on your preferences your likes and dislikes your political opinions the sports teams and musicians you love and so on they also have an algorithm working on figuring out how likely you are to kill yourself.

Despite their attempts at machine learning which they admit will be imperfect, the important thing is that they can’t do it without our help in flagging posts from people that we are worried about. And then some other stuff happens they don’t want to share too many details about their proprietary mental health service and suicide aptitude score system because they’re a private business and they don’t have to come on man.

“Whether a post is reported by a concerned friend or family member or identified via machine learning, the next steps in the process remain the same. A trained member of Facebook’s Community Operations team reviews it to determine if the person is at risk — and if so, the original poster is shown support options, such as prompts to reach out to a friend and help-line phone numbers. In serious cases, when it’s determined that there may be imminent danger of self harm, Facebook may contact local authorities. Since these efforts began last year, we’ve worked with first responders on over 1,000 wellness checks based on reports we’ve received from our proactive detection efforts.”

Here’s one question I have aside from all the other questions I have which are a lot but here is one hard one: Honestly if you had to choose whose hands to place your life in who would you prefer Facebook or the cops? I’m not sure I know the answer myself. They both say they’re here to help us but it doesn’t seem like they know what that means.