Trial begins for case that sparks law for mentally ill

January 6, 2009 11:27:47 AM PST
It was a case that sparked a state law. A mentally ill man was shot to death by La Porte police officers back in 2001. Now, a jury must decide whether the victim's civil rights were violated.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Testimony gets underway today in the civil rights case against the four officers who shot Robert Meadours. They shot the paranoid, delusional man 14 times after he allegedly came at them with a screwdriver.

The day that Meadours was shot, his family says he had 'flipped out.' When Meadours' sister called police on that particular day, Robert was swinging on a swing. He was wearing four baseball caps and a tool belt with Beanie Babies stuffed in the loops.

He apparently told his sister if his feet touched the ground he would die. He said he knew would die because he said he had seen the devil and the devil's name was 'Stan.'

In opening statements, the attorney for the family says they had already decided to go ahead and have the 38-year-old, 6'5", 300 pounds, electrician committed because they could no longer help him.

Meadours' sister says that she called police on that particular day because she feared for his life and thought he would hurt himself.

But the attorney for the officers involved in the shooting says that the sister feared for her life. She warned the officers Robert could do bodily harm to them when confronted, because he had tools around the house and the backyard. Just four minutes later, Robert Meadours was dead.

The family believes police were not trained to handle mental health cases and that they overreacted. But authorities say they did what they were trained to do.

Because of this particular case, officers are now required to have more training when it comes to dealing with mental health patients.

The medical examiner took the stand Tuesday morning, testifying about how many times the Meadours was shot.

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