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Unarmed Black Pastor Having Mental Health Episode Is Killed By ‘Aggressive’ Texas Police Officer After Family Called for Wellness Check

A wellness check for Patrick Warren Sr., a Black pastor, turned fatal Sunday, Jan. 10, when an officer in Killeen, Texas, shot Warren after his family had called 911 to request assistance from a mental health professional. The family was concerned that 52-year-old Warren, who lives with mental health issues, was having an episode, according to civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family.

“They noticed their loved one deteriorating, undergoing some sort of psychosis it appeared,” Merritt said in an exclusive interview with ABC25. “They spoke with medical professionals. They wanted to get him some help.”

Patrick Warren Sr., 52, of Killeen, Texas, was shot and killed by police officer Reynaldo Contreras after his family called and requested a mental health professional to assist with a mental health episode. He was unarmed. (Photo: Twitter @AnandaRobinson3)

According to Merritt, the family was told a mental health deputy was not available so the police department dispatched an officer who has been identified as Reynaldo Contreras instead.

Merritt said the family described Contreras as “an aggressive officer who’s speaking in an abrasive tone who clearly had an attitude.” Merritt also said Contreras slammed the door on the way out of the family’s home before killing Warren, which is corroborated by video footage from the family’s ring camera.

The video footage shows Warren, who also was a veteran, coming out of the door with his hands up. Then his behavior seems to become increasingly more erratic. At that point Warren goes offscreen and the family can be seen in distress asking Warren to sit down and begging the officer not to shoot. However, a taser can be heard being deployed off-camera followed by three shots. “No, no I told you don’t use a gun,” a family member screams over and over on the video.

“When Patrick’s family protested, ‘Don’t shoot,’ an officer fired his first shot into Patrick and redirected his weapon toward Patrick’s wife, Barbara, telling her to get back from Patrick. The officer again trains his weapon on Patrick’s body and continues to fire his weapon, killing him,” a press release from Merritt’s firm states.

Warren was taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center where he later died. Merritt said the family is calling for “the immediate firing and arrest of the officer.” Warren’s son, Patrick Warren Jr., said Warren was “tragically killed by Killeen Police … in front of his family in a nonviolent encounter.”

Warren Jr. created a GoFundMe campaign to assist with funeral expenses. On it, he noted his father was the “sole provider” for their family and had lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic. He added his father’s life insurance policy had expired three months prior and that the family would be grateful for any contribution. The campaign had raised over $34,000 at time of publication.

Warren Jr. also created an Instagram account, Justice For Patrick Warren. It had over 3,000 followers at time of publication.

The Killeen Police Department released a statement that said Contreras was dispatched “in reference to a psychiatric call” and when he arrived “he encountered an emotionally distressed man.” They added Contreras initially used his taser but it didn’t work so he “then discharged his duty weapon during the encounter, striking the subject.”

Dr. Jeremy Berry, professor of Counseling and Psychology and a mental health crisis advocate, said there was a way to deescalate the situation without killing Warren.

“I’ve been on calls that looked exactly like that, hundreds of them, and I know that there’s a way that that plays out better. I know there is. I’ve seen it. I’ve been involved in it,” Berry told ABC25. “There are other methods to address that situation that might not require someone to lose their life.”

Activist Shaun King, who said he has gotten involved with helping the Warren family, shared video footage of the encounter on Instagram. He described Warren as “a pastor … beloved father” and “cherished husband.”

On Twitter, Merritt said Warren Sr. was “killed in his front lawn during a wellness check. Shot 3 times in his chest for being ill.” He also listed eight other Black men who were killed by police for similar reasons.

Many on social media said Warren’s death was another painful reminder that Black and white Americans face two justice systems.

“Wow all that restraint the police had with thousands of aggressors in my city but this officer couldn’t handle one man coming towards him,” Instagram user @mealnin_monroe wrote.

“We saw last week it’s possible for police to not kill aggressive people. Even actually attacking people. But a family calls for HELP for a mental episode and this unarmed man is shot in the chest and dies. Like…..I OBVIOUSLY get it, but I don’t f—ing get it,” user @Nikkilooovesit wrote on Twitter.

The Killeen Police Department said there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by their Criminal Investigation Division and the Texas Rangers.

For Merritt, the evidence is clear. “A mental health call should not be a death sentence,” he said.

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