Two days after Sheriff's deputies shot and killed 18-year-old Christian Chavez, the family is raising questions about the Sheriff Department's policy on suicidal calls.
Chief Deputy Shelly Castaneda told 17 News, deputies get four hours of training in their academy on how to handle calls involving the mentally ill. Deputies say these kind of calls can be the most difficult.
The department refused to talk about Monday's fatal shooting, but they did speak in general terms about department policy. Castaneda says the department has no specific written policy outlining what a deputy should do, when dealing with a suicidal person.
"Each incident we approach, we do it on the basis of officer safety and the safety of the subjects involved. We have to handle those types of cases, on a case by case basis and that is because every incident is going to be different," explained Castaneda.
Often, deputies will call out the county's Mobile Evaluation Team. The team goes through extensive training to handle the mentally ill, but can respond to only half the calls it receives. In Monday's case, the team was still on it's way to Buttonwillow.
Deputies are almost always first to arrive, which is why last year, the department implemented crisis intervention training. It is a 40-hour course to better understand conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.
"Just having an awareness of what kind of mental health situation we're dealing with can sometimes assist the deputy to take appropriate action. As an example, not raising your voice or talking very plainly, very matter of factly, not making body contact a lot of times," said Castaneda.
But, that didn't happen Monday, according to local attorney Daniel Rodriguez, who has been hired to represent the Chavez family.
"The deputy approached the car and said to the boy, "Get out of the car. I said get out of the car!" That kind of tone of voice, that just made matters worse. That is the exact thing you're not supposed to do as law enforcement. According to the witnesses, there was never any threat. He did pull out a knife, but he pointed it at his chest, not at the deputy," said Daniel Rodriguez.
Chavez's social worker, who witnessed the shooting, told 17 News by phone Tuesday she was disgusted with the way deputies handled the situation because Chavez had the knife pointed at himself. She agreed to talk to with us, but never showed up for the interview. On Wednesday, she told 17 News her employer, College Community Services, told her not to talk. The company has a contract with the county.