Miami/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 16, 2024
Charge Dropped Against Paralyzed Miami Man, Screws Turn on Police Over Mental Health Crisis ResponseSource: Unsplash/ Sasun Bughdaryan

The aggravated assault charge against a 47-year-old Black man shot and left paralyzed by Miami police has been dropped, reports say. Donald Armstrong, was having a mental breakdown when police encountered him on March 7. The incident, which left Armstrong paralyzed from the waist down, was captured on a viral video and has raised questions about police handling of mental health crises.

Armstrong, according to WSVN, was filmed holding a screwdriver. However, he lifted his shirt to show he was unarmed before being tasered and shot by officers. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has since dropped the aggravated assault charge, yet Armstrong still faces a misdemeanor charge of resisting without violence, which has been transferred to county court. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, known for taking on racially charged cases, is representing Armstrong and demands that all charges be dropped.

Crump criticized the police's handling of the situation, accusing them of attempting to justify their use of force by immediately imposing criminal charges. "It's like smoke and mirrors," Crump told WLRN. He pointed out the pattern of character assassination after such incidents, particularly in the Liberty City area where the incident occurred, where "blacks are routinely profiled."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now the primary agency investigating the case, and the Miami police department is conducting an internal investigation. Meanwhile, Police Chief Manny Morales has acknowledged in a statement provided by Hoodline, the need to improve police response to mental health crises, pledging, "to ensure that our department does better."

Community advocates are pushing for systemic changes, advocating for non-police intervention in mental health situations. Rachel Gilmer, Director of the Healing and Justice Center, emphasizes that police are not trained mental health professionals. Organizations in Armstrong’s neighborhood have been conducting wellness checks, providing an alternative support system. Individuals experiencing mental health emergencies have alternative resources such as the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-866-SAFEMIA.

Miami-Crime & Emergencies