Speakout

January 07, 2007

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- A disturbed 24-year-old Pasadena man died after a struggle with Anne Arundel police Dec. 27. It was the second time last year that someone with a mental illness died during a confrontation with county officers.

Steven Ray Ellison was apparently delusional and assaulted four people before an officer arrived. Six officers were needed to subdue him, police said. Ellison then stopped breathing. Homicide detectives and the state's attorney's office are investigating. The autopsy report has not been released, but county police said that they found no signs of trauma on Ellison's body.

Lt. David Waltemeyer, a county police spokesman, said the officers' top concern was ensuring the safety of everyone at the scene. He added that police were not aware of Ellison's history of mental illness, and that one of its mental health crisis teams would not have been called in, regardless, because Ellison was acting violently.

What do you think of the officers' handling of the situation?

Despite tragedy, actions were proper

First, let me express my condolences to the family of Steven Ray Ellison. It is a tragedy that he died.

However, we have a police force to serve and protect the people of Anne Arundel County. If an individual has assaulted people, or threatened to assault someone, the police have a duty to act.

In the situation of Steven Ray Ellison, it is my opinion that the police acted in the right manner and acted to protect the lives of Anne Arundel County citizens. It is reported that Steven Ray Ellison was acting in a dangerous manner, and the police did what they were trained to do. Something went wrong and it has not been proven to be the fault of the police.

I thank the police in Anne Arundel County for their hard work and dedication.

Victor Henderson Glen Burnie

Pair of incidents is highly disturbing

I have recently heard about the killing of the 24-year-old man in Anne Arundel County and this is really disturbing me.

The main reason is that one of my best friends, Justin Fisher, was killed on May 14, 2006, in a very similar situation.

It is absolutely absurd that these police officers are shooting and killing innocent people, and getting away with it.

There were 10 armed police officers at the site of Justin's death. If they were so afraid that one teenage boy with scissors would hurt them, they shouldn't be protecting our county, anyway.

Lacey Jennings Athens, Ohio

Police need help in such incidents

As an Anne Arundel County resident, firm supporter of our police and EMS system, and a mental health professional, I can only be saddened by yet another death of a mentally ill individual.

If someone is violent, the police have to act to protect others. If they act and protect, they are wrong; if they do not act and someone else is hurt, they are again wrong. There seems to be no happy medium.

So what are they to do? The mobile crisis unit? This is not the answer.

These teams of trained mental health professionals are an asset to our county but as stated, they become involved only before the individual becomes "violent."

If there was more education in police departments and on-call psychiatrists and therapists to assist them when they encounter this type of situation, there may be a decrease in deaths to mentally ill individuals as well as a more organized plan of action when encountering a situation that can easily become out of control. Many people do not understand the nature of this beast unless they or a loved one has suffered from a debilitating mental illness.

Our police and EMS workers need to have the resources at their fingertips when serious situations arise. Until this happens, there will be more deaths of this vulnerable population.

Mary Campbell Severn

Wait for results before reporting

"The autopsy report has not been released, but county police said Friday that it found no signs of trauma on Ellison's body," according to the summary of the Dec. 31 Speakout issue.

It is not news to report the above; one waits to see the autopsy results.

Harold A. Maio

Fort Myers, Fla.

The writer has written and consulted for major universities on psychiatric issues.

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