Fort Worth police detail averting potential mass shooting
A 27-year-old man, who was well known to the Fort Worth Police Department, hadn’t been taking his medication and was getting worse, talking about thoughts of harming people, his father told a 911 dispatcher last week.
His son, he worried, could carry out a mass shooting. And police had to know about it.
An off-duty officer who had interacted with the man before got a voicemail about the father’s call around lunchtime on Sept. 3, according to Officer Landon Rollins, a member of the three-person Crisis Intervention Team. He understood the importance of the message, so he contacted police right away, Rollins said. Officers launched a fast-moving response.
The father gave general areas of where his son might be, Rollins said, and a team of officers canvassed those spots. They eventually found him around 1 p.m. in the 2200 block of Montgomery Street, appearing to be disoriented and in the throes of a mental health crisis.
He had been to multiple businesses looking to buy a gun but was turned down because background checks showed he wasn’t allowed to do so, according to police. He had resorted to looking to buy a gun off the street, “which we all know is very accessible” and “you can get it done,” Rollins said.
When he and the other officers came up to the man, he said he wasn’t living in reality, saying he believed he had died and he was in hell.
“He believed I was trying to kill him right then and there with my mind,” Rollins said during a press conference Tuesday outside of the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex. “When asked why he was trying to obtain a weapon, he was just very flat and blunt — to kill people.”
The man, whose identity wasn’t released, had taken out large amounts of money from his bank account and had $600-$700 on him, police said. He reportedly mentioned wanting to kill people in Fort Worth, where he’s a resident, but didn’t specify where.
Many people should be applauded for the thwarted potential mass shooting, police said, from the father who had the quick thinking to call police to the businesses that rightfully refused to sell the man a gun.
Police also described the incident as a success for for the Crisis Intervention Team, which — since its launch in August 2017 — has worked to prevent acts of violence by building relationships with community members who could have suicidal or homicidal tendencies.
“When you hear the names Columbine, El Paso, Las Vegas — we do not want Fort Worth to ever be on that list,” Rollins said. “And that’s the overriding goal of what (the Crisis Intervention Team) does every day. And we work on it 24 hours a day.”
The Crisis Intervention Team is a partnership between police and law liaisons from My Health My Resources Tarrant County as well as U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials.
After getting the 911 call, the team feared the incident could be a “Midland-Odessa” situation, referencing the Aug. 31 shootings in West Texas that left seven people dead and more than 25 injured, police said. The father was worried, too, in the current climate of mass shootings.
The 27-year-old was initially taken to a clinic for a psychiatric evaluation, where medical staff are determining how much of a public safety risk he poses and what course of treatment would be best for him.
Any charges against the man are pending, police said.
“Our utmost concern is making sure he receives the care he needs,” said Officer Buddy Calzada, a police spokesman. “Once an evaluation about his care has been determined, a decision will be made from there.”
‘He said, just, “I want to kill people’’
When officers found the man on Sept. 3, he specifically mentioned wanting to kill members of his family, or anyone he could find, Rollins said. He spoke with a flat, emotionless voice.
The way he was talking, Rollins said, indicated to officers that something was seriously wrong.
“He said, just, ‘I want to kill people.’ He reiterated this many times,” Rollins said. “He was ... not living in reality.”
He said he can think of at least four times off the top of his head that police had dealt with the individual. Police wouldn’t describe his past behavior or mental health issues.
Also, of his current living situation, Rollins said, he was “in between family residences.”
The father’s decision to call 911 about his own son, he said, “took courage” and emotional intelligence. He possibly helped avert a tragedy, Rollins said.
“You can’t say enough about him,” he said.
Although only three officers are on the Crisis Intervention Team, Rollins said he hopes one day it could be expanded to 12. Since August 2017, the team has recovered more than 325 weapons from individuals who showed legitimate threats of being suicidal or homicidal.
Members of the team have taken every bit of mental health training the state provides, Rollins said. They can receive calls about a potential situation at any time seven days a week.
“The overriding goal of the Crisis Intervention Team here in Fort Worth,” he said, “is to prevent the next mass shooting from happening within our city limits and in our county.”