Every Life Matters

The past few weeks have been incredibly dark for our country. Like most people, I was disappointed (yet again) at the needless killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by the police. I was just as horrified by the massacre of police officers in Dallas. It was a week from hell. But it didn’t end in Dallas.

On Friday, police officers in Tucson, Arizona, fatally shot a man during a mental health check. The officers were called to the scene as backup for the Mobile Acute Crisis team. They went into his house because he would not open the door, and he walked towards them with a butcher knife. The considered him “armed” and shot and killed him.

Maybe it was the only way they could save their own lives. Or maybe they could have just turned around, used a taser, shot him in the leg, taken away his knife, or one of the hundreds of seemingly plausible options that would not have ended in death.

But this man, whose name has not been released, is just as much of a victim as Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the officers in Dallas.

That’s because the law in Arizona, and the vast majority of the country, actually requires a person to be “a danger to themselves or others” to get involuntary psychiatric treatment. In many cases it's the only thing a family member or friend can do to help someone who is psychotic.

If the law requires that a person be dangerous in order to receive treatment, they should not be killed for being dangerous. It is a legal form of genocide and it has to stop. Every life matters.