The family of the man killed is asking whether he had to die. The sheriff's office says this case highlights the difficulty in responding to mental health calls, something which they will soon be doing quite differently.
Just before 6pm Monday, Fort Bend County deputies responded to this home in the 7000 block of Dawn Bloom between Richmond and Rosenberg. Family called 9-1-1, saying 26-year-old Michael Blair was barricaded in a bathroom and suicidal.
"This should have went totally different," Blair's uncle Steven Savage said.
Savage says he watched as deputies entered the home. Investigators say the deputy first tried to subdue Blair with a stun gun. It didn't work. They tell us that's when Blair became enraged and charged toward that deputy in close quarters with a 3.5-inch folding knife.
"When the subject came at him, there was only one choice he could make to protect himself from the subject," Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office Maj. Chad Norvell said.
The deputy opened fire, the sheriff's office says, 11 times.
"For you to have hit somebody that many times, something's up. Something has to be up," Savage said.
The sheriff's office says all its officers receive basic training in attempting to de-escalate mental health issues. But next spring, it will hit the streets with a 10-person crisis intervention team to help at scenes just like this.
"Dealing with people in mental crisis is difficult," Norvell said.
The new unit will be a partnership with other mental health care providers in Fort Bend County. With multi-million dollars in federal seed money, they right now are building what will be a Crisis Services Center. It's 2,000 square feet and will have 22 beds, eight of which will be for 48-hour emergency involuntary commitments.
"We've needed this for so many years," said Shena Timberlake with Texana.
But that won't be complete till early next year -- too late for the man who died Monday night.
The deputy who opened fire is an 11-year veteran. He has been placed on paid administration leave per policy. An internal affairs investigation is now underway.
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