The man shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer Saturday, February 16, 2013, has been identified as 31-year-old Juan Antonio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was shot at the Coppermill Apartment complex after a standoff with police. Officer Leland Ashley with the Tulsa Police Department said police were called to the apartment complex at about 9 p.m. after Gonzalez chased his roommate out of their apartment with a knife.
His roommate, Chris, said he believes it could have ended differently, and what Gonzalez needed was help for his mental health problems.
It's sad for everyone involved, for Gonzalez and his family, as well as for the officer involved.
Gonzalez moved to Tulsa from Florida about four months ago, for a manufacturing job.
Chris said Gonzalez struggled with bi-polar issues, but refused to get help. He said he went off his meds and hadn't slept for three or four nights, when he chased Chris out of the apartment with a knife. That's when officers were called.
Police say, when they got to the apartment, Gonzalez was not making sense, not listening to or conversing with officers. They say they could see him setting fires in the apartment, and he would come to the balcony, go back inside, and then back out to the balcony.
Officers had been told about his mental health issues and that he could have a BB gun when they arrived. They say, had Gonzalez listened to their pleas to surrender, he would've been taken to a hospital for help, but instead, he pointed a rifle off the balcony at officers below.
Just before 11 p.m., Gonzalez was shot and killed by Officer Daniel Madewell.
Madewell is on paid administrative leave as the shooting is investigated.
"When Mr. Gonzalez made that decision, right or wrong, in his right mind or not, to point that gun downrange, it's a real gun," said Sgt. Dave Walker.
Officers later learned it was a BB gun in the shape of a rifle with a scope on top. We found many similar BB guns online that look real and don't have the orange tip on the end. Officers say, in that moment, they have to react as if the gun is real or risk getting hurt or killed themselves.
"You can't wait to see if the gun goes off and shoots you in the head," Walker said.
Gonzalez's roommate said he struggled with mental health issues most of his life and seemed to be getting worse. He said Gonzalez refused to get help, even jumped out of the car on a trip to the hospital, for fear he'd be locked away. He said Gonzalez even had an incident, in Florida, with police, where he was running around naked with a knife and had to be subdued.
Chris said he believes society, as a whole, needs to acknowledge mental illness earlier in people, and get them the help they need before it leads to this type of ending.
"We don't ever want it to end that way," Walker said.
Oklahoma requires all officers to have two hours of mental health training each year. Rookies get much more than that in the academy. Tulsa Police offers advanced mental health training, as well, and have offered classes on how to recognize a person with Autism. They are now offering a class on recognizing the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.
COPES, a mental health organization, is often called out by police to talk to mentally ill patients, but only once a person is secure and there are no weapons available. They say the scene with Gonzalez was never secure.