“This is madness” – Mary Francis speaks out on killing of mentally ill man

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“This is madness” – Mary Francis speaks out on killing of mentally ill man
Human rights lawyer Mary Francis
Human rights lawyer Mary Francis

Human Rights activist and attorney-at-law Mary Francis has condemned the killing of a mentally challenged man in Vieux Fort on Monday (June 16) by police, saying that from her observations “the force used was disproportionate to the threat”.

“I think it’s happening too frequently that persons who are mentally challenged lose their lives at the hands of the police simply because the police do not have the required training and then they could not be bothered. They act to me recklessly,” Francis told St Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview today (June 17).

Francis said yesterday’s incident calls into question the rights of the mentally challenged people.

“It is also a question of police and the use of guns as a last resort because this is what the law requires, you only use a gun as a last resort measure when your life is under serious threat, and he didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with such a situation,” she added. “This is madness on the part of the police. That is to me is excessive force and there has to be a proper inquiry and maybe the family may want to sue the state.”

Francis said while it a norm for the police to be called in to apprehend the mentally challenged, whether by family members or persons in the community, “most times when you hear of those fatal shootings, police are involved.”

She said the police officers’ defense most times is that they were under attack, which led them to shoot and kill the person. She argued that the man wasn’t thinking rationally, which is why the matter should have been dealt with differently.

In addition, Francis said the St. Lucia government needs to act fast to implement procedures that will deal with such matters.

She has recommended the training of officers to deal with the mentally challenged and have them posted at major police stations.

The humans rights activist explained that this issue has however been discussed for many years. She recalled attending a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) workshop back in 2003 that looked specifically at dealing with such matters.

“Those matters have been spoken of over and over again but they have not found a solution to the problem,” she remarked.

At one time, she said government was looking at using tasers for these cases, but after several discussions, no measure was put in place. To date, nothing has been done to find another alternative.

Meanwhile, relatives of the mentally challenged man, Simon Gabriel, have claimed that he was killed “cold-bloodedly”.

The relatives of the deceased told SNO that the police could have shot him in his foot. However, they claimed that the man was shot three times close-range. This happened even while, the mother of the deceased pleaded with the police not to shot him and explained to them that he is not violent.

The relatives had called the police for assistance to get Simon medical care at the Mental Wellness Centre.

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78 COMMENTS

  1. When one of you can identify a reputable and reliable source which classifies stones as arms, then we can dialogue. I can just see the headline "St Lucia receives shipment of arms to prepare for battle; these include hand guns, shot guns, grenades and oh of course stones"

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  2. last i checked police officers always had guns. just one question all those who are criticizing the police just one question....would anyone of urll approach anyone let alone a mad man wielding two stones

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  3. Ofcourse if Mary needs the help of law enforecement she will call, she is entitled to jus like all of us are, isn't it procedure that one calls the police to get a metally ill person so they can be transferred to a mental institution? So the family did just that! If a man is approaching you with 2 stones why not shoot him in his leg slow him down. Maybe our police officers need to go back to the gun range to pratice shooting. And just because she is a human rights activist doesn't mean she hates the police just as I'm writing this and I don't hate them...Get out of the box tht u guys are in n see the bigger picture!!

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  4. For many years during my visits home, I have observed an increasing number of people with psychiatric problems roaming the streets. Some people in the public eye seem bemused by their bizarre behaviors. Just last year, a certain person wrote with amusement how this unstable lady had stripped naked and was walking through the streets. I have seen with my own eyes, a couple of times, unbalanced individuals abusing tourists. The Simpleton answer to this, “It happens in New York.” By the way, I don’t live in New York or any major metropolitan area.

    We look at the food program conducted in Constitutional Park that serves the homeless many of whom display obvious symptoms of schizophrenia. I would like to see the government make a concerted effort, to withdraw these insane people from public circulation, on the basis of public health and safety. It is a serious matter and without doubt it would lessen confrontation with personnel in law and order. Thank you.

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    • Schizophrenia or vodoo? Does any one rember the guy who would bang his head & hand on Victoria Street. Where is he now. We know our roots and the dark side of our culture, its all about the approach.

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  5. The responses on this thread really illustrate why Saint Lucia is the way it is. When people, for the most part, are so incredibly ignorant that they argue that Mary Francis is wrong to speak out on these occasions because they involve individuals of questionable character, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the meaning of accountability and the way the legal mechanisms in the country should work. Obviously, when a 15 year old girl gets stabbed, a heinous criminal act has been committed by an individual. However, that is not a HUMAN RIGHTS issue. There is a legal system in place that deals with criminal acts by ensuring that offenders are prosecuted ACCORDING to the law. However, when the STATE infringes the law and commits an act that is detrimental to the rights of the individual, and in particular the right to life, THEN IT IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE.

    Consider for a second what type of state we would live in if police officers could discharge their weapons at you, regardless of whether you were armed, because you are SUSPECTED of a criminal act. Think of how many people could potentially lose their lives because that one person who happens to be a police officer dislikes them, or feels like killing them that day. Wake up Saint Lucia. We are lacking far more than education. This society is devoid of any sense of empathy or social intelligence.

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  6. Democratic societies have an obligation to alleviate the effects of crime, including the adverse consequences of victimisation. European countries should ensure the effective recognition of, and respect for, the rights of victims with regard to their human rights. They should in particular respect the security, dignity, private and family life of victims and recognise the negative effects of crime on victims

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  7. I am angry, disturbed and disgusted at the actions of these police officers. Such officers are a disgrace to the RSLPC. I am also dumbfounded by the comments of some of these misinformed and foolish bloggers for being so ignorant on the issue of human rights. Some of the comments are shameful and distasteful. To Miss Francis I say, keep up the good work as an a human rights attorney. You are indeed an outstanding St. Lucian woman.

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  8. LET ME RESPOND TO SERIOUSLY-- BEFORE THE POLICE HAD ALL THOSE GUNS THERE WERE THOSE POLICE MEN WITHOUT GUNS AND STILL GOT THE JOB DONE. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PUTTING YOUR LIFE ON THE LINE. AS FAR AS I SEE IT THERE ARE A BUNCH OF POLICE KILLERS ON THE STREETS OF ST, LUCIA. I HAVE WALK THE WALK SO I CAN TALK THE TALK. ALL WHAT YOU HEAR IS A BUNCH OF EXCUSE FRON THE POLICE TO GO AROUND KILLING PEOPLE. MR. POLICE CHIEF CHECK YOUR SELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOUR SELF.

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  9. @Lookin4sum....for your enlightenment returning fire with fire means just that...you fire your weapon (meaning a gun or pistol or any such similar tool designed to emit ammunition) at the police and they fire back.This is standard police protocol the world over. Had the man been in possession of a weapon and fired at the police then they would be well within their rights to fire back again with the intent to disable and not to kill. Under no circumstances do you discharge your weapon in the direction of an unarmed human being let alone in an area of the torso knowingly prone to resulting in a fatal wound. The crux of this matter is that a mentally unsound individual who is incapable of behaving in a sane and responsible manner should not be left for subduing by police officers as they are not mental health professionals. The victim's actions were involuntary where as the response from the police was anything but.

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    • @ Yard Chick... the relative never said the man was unarmed, he was armed with two stones. We are all commenting on what the family member said and already passing judgement on the actions of the police. I was once told that there are three side to a story, the family side, the police side and the truth. I will side with the truth, as what I have read thus far leave me with many questions unanswered.

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