Members of a mental health advocacy group are calling for the Mesa Police Department to increase the level of mental health training for its officers in the wake of last week’s fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy.
Mario Madrigal Jr. died Aug. 25 after being shot multiple times by Mesa police. His parents said they called officers because the boy threatened to kill himself when informed he would have to return to an alcoholabuse treatment facility.
Authorities say the officers shot the boy when he advanced on them with a knife. His parents, Mario Sr. and Martha Madrigal, contend the teen was shot after being rendered helpless by stun guns.
If she could turn back the clock, Martha Madrigal has said she would not call the Mesa Police Department for assistance.
It’s a sentiment being voiced by many people in the community, said Kenneth Mounkes, a member of the Mental Health Advocates Coalition of Arizona.
Six members of the coalition met with Mesa Police Department training coordinator Tom Gussie and Lt. John Meza on Tuesday night to discuss police department training policies and the Madrigal case.
"It’s a tragedy no matter what way you look at it and we want to find a way to better work with law enforcement officers," Mounkes said.
The coalition formally called for the department to implement a 40-hour training program developed by the Memphis Police Department in 1988. More than 200 Memphis officers have been specially trained by mental health providers, family advocates and mental health consumer groups to respond to calls involving people in crisis and the mentally ill.
Gussie said he would forward the group’s idea to his superiors, but noted the police department already requires officers to attend a four-hour training seminar on the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
"We’ve had numerous success stories," Gussie said. "Mesa is a leader. We are at the forefront and people nationwide are always looking at us."
The course is not the only one that helps officers deal with crises, said Mesa police Sgt. Mike Goulet. The department offers a variety of other courses that deal with crises as well.
Two numbers available to the public when dealing with a suicidal person are: The Value Options crisis line at (800) 631-1314; and the East Valley Empact-SPC suicide/ crisis hotline at (480) 784-1500.
Services for Mario Madrigal Jr. will be 10 a.m Saturday at Bueler Mortuary, 14 W. Hulet Drive, Chandler. A viewing will be 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the mortuary. Memorial funds have also been set up at the Bank of America, account 4656961117, and Washington Mutual, account number 4891192844.